PHILADELPHIA – A judge on Wednesday refused to grant convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal a new trial in state court, rejecting the celebrated death-row inmate's argument that he was poorly represented and that new testimony would clear him.
Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Pamela Dembe ruled that she does not have jurisdiction over Abu-Jamal's petition for a new trial, scuttling his hopes for another round of state-court appeals. Still pending is his federal appeal in the 1981 murder of police Officer Daniel Faulkner.
Abu-Jamal exhausted the state appeals process two years ago, but a petition filed in September argued that the defense had new evidence to clear him, including a confession by a man named Arnold Beverly. Prosecutors argued that the petition wasn't filed in time and urged Dembe to dismiss it.
In a 1999 affidavit, Beverly claimed he was hired by the mob to kill Faulkner because the 25-year-old officer had interfered with mob payoffs to police.
But Abu-Jamal's former lawyers, Leonard Weinglass and Daniel R. Williams, who were fired in May after Williams published a book about the case, thought the confession was not credible and a federal judge refused to order Beverly to testify on Abu-Jamal's behalf.
Abu-Jamal argued that he should be entitled to another state appeal because his former attorneys denied him the right to effective counsel by not presenting the Beverly confession.
Dembe dismissed the value of the confession.
"Aggrandizing themselves by confessing to participation in high-profile cases is not unusual for persons," she wrote. "... witnesses who recant and witnesses who mysteriously appear long after trial are regarded with suspicion by the courts."
Abu-Jamal's new lawyers asked Dembe to waive a requirement that defendants request a new trial no more than 60 days after learning new information that would justify overturning a conviction.
But the district attorney's office argued that the request for a new state appeal was not filed in time because Abu-Jamal himself knew about the Beverly petition two years ago.
A former Black Panther and radio journalist, Abu-Jamal was convicted of shooting Faulkner, 25, during the early-morning hours of Dec. 9, 1981, after the officer pulled over Abu-Jamal's brother in a downtown traffic stop.
Celebrities, death-penalty opponents and foreign politicians have since rallied to Abu-Jamal's cause, calling him a political prisoner and saying he was railroaded by a racist justice system.