Abu-Jamal v. Sec'y Pa. Dept. Corr., No. 01-9014 (3d Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
The petitioner, convicted in 1982 of murdering a police officer and sentenced to death, exhausted state appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court denied a habeas corpus petition challenging his conviction and subsequently remanded the Third Circuit's grant of relief on the sentence. On remand, the Third Circuit held that the death sentence must be vacated because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court incorrectly applied Supreme Court precedent (Mills v. Maryland). The verdict form and jury instructions, particularly a statement that “[w]e, the jury, have found unanimously . . . one or more aggravating circumstances which outweigh any mitigating circumstances,” created a substantial probability the jury believed it was precluded from finding a mitigating circumstance that had not been unanimously agreed upon. The court noted that the form has been amended since the petitioner's conviction.