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There was spirited reaction from all sides Tuesday to the decision by federal Judge William H. Yohn Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to overturn Mumia Abu-Jamal’s death sentence for the murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner on the basis of faulty jury instructions. District Attorney Lynne Abraham said Abu-Jamal “stands a convicted murderer today” and seemed to view the majority of Yohn’s opinion as a victory. But she also said the court’s analysis on the jury charge issue is “legally flawed” and that her office will be filing an appeal. “I’m angry, outraged, and disgusted,” said Faulkner’s widow, Maureen Faulkner. “I think Judge Yohn is a sick and twisted person, after sitting on this case for two years and making this decision just before Christmas. He wants to play the middle road and try to appease both sides and it doesn’t work.” But Pam Africa, leader of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, said Abu-Jamal should have been released from prison altogether. “The only way it would be a good ruling is if the judge was honest and fair and released Mumia,” Africa said. “He’s got enough factual evidence to release Mumia.” Abu-Jamal’s current lawyers could not be reached for comment, but one of his former lawyers, Daniel Williams, said, “We’re obviously very gratified by the result, but we’re disappointed in the narrowness of the ruling. We felt we had put together a very strong case for Mumia’s innocence.” Temple University law professor David Kairys said the ruling identified “a very clear error” that prevented Abu-Jamal from getting a fair sentence. “What really happened here is Mumia Abu-Jamal just got the same rules applied to him that apply to everybody else,” Kairys said. “They’re not technicalities; they really go to the heart of whether the jury meant to impose the death penalty or not.” Leonard Weinglass, another of Abu-Jamal’s former lawyers, said: “It is the most ominous decision any citizen is called upon to make in this country — passing on the life of a fellow citizen. In order to do that, there must be clarity. Jurors must know precisely what they are doing when they vote death.” Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said, “Mumia Abu-Jamal’s trial was riddled with violations of due process, racism and prosecutorial misconduct. … Although we applaud the fact that Abu-Jamal’s sentence was thrown out, today’s ruling is bittersweet. All of the errors that occurred in Abu-Jamal’s trial clearly warrant a new hearing on the question of guilt or innocence.” Diann Rust-Tierney, director of the capital punishment project of the American Civil Liberties Union, said: “It’s good there’s an opportunity to correct some of the problems in individual cases like this, but I think what’s called for is a broader examination of the system in Pennsylvania. I think in order to do that properly there needs to be a moratorium on the death penalty in Pennsylvania.”

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