Attorneys maneuver in Mumia case

Posted: April 17, 2007

Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is seeking to overturn his conviction for the murder of a Philadelphia police officer, has objected to a move by prosecutors to recuse all judges on the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals from his case.

Prosecutors said they wished to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, noting that the district attorney during Abu-Jamal's 1982 trial was Ed Rendell, whose wife, Marjorie, sits on the Third Circuit.

At a minimum, prosecutors have asked Marjorie Rendell to recuse herself.

The appeals court is considering a 2001 ruling by U.S. District Judge William H. Yohn Jr., who affirmed Abu-Jamal's conviction for the slaying of city officer Daniel Faulkner but overturned his death sentence. Both sides appealed, and the court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case May 17.

Abu-Jamal's lawyer, Robert R. Bryan, said in a filing that the prosecutors' latest filing was "a ploy to delay oral argument" and "insulting and demeaning to the court."

"There is not even a possible appearance of conflict of interest or impropriety," Bryan wrote, noting that the three judges who will hear the case have not even been announced, and thus Judge Rendell may not even participate. In his motion, prosecutor Hugh J. Burns Jr. cited a defense brief which alleged that the District Attorney's Office under Ed Rendell was "a place where a prosecutor who was of a mind to discriminate . . . was free, even encouraged, to do so."

In his new motion, Bryan also asked the court to grant each side an hour for oral argument, as opposed to the usual 30 minutes. Bryan said that some of his time may also be used by lawyers from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the National Lawyers Guild.


Contact staff writer John Shiffman at 215-854-2658 or jshiffman@phillynews.com.

 

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