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The sentencing trial of Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin continued Tuesday with a parade of defense witnesses who drew few but sharp questions on cross-examination. Al-Amin was convicted Saturday of the murder of Fulton County, Ga., Deputy Ricky Kinchen and the wounding of Deputy Aldranon English in a March 16, 2000, shooting spree in Atlanta’s West End. The defense rested late Tuesday afternoon. Closing arguments begin this morning. The jurors who convicted Al-Amin heard two days of evidence to help them decide whether he should be sentenced to death, to life without parole or to life with the possibility of parole. So far, the evidence has included victim impact statements from three members of Kinchen’s family who described the devastation his death has caused. They answered prosecutors’ questions by reading prepared and court-approved responses. “When Ricky was killed I lost a part of myself,” his wife, Sherese, told the jury. “He was my confidante and my rock, and now he’s gone.” Some days, she said, she simply would sit and cry. “I wipe my tears and stay strong for my children,” she said. PROSECUTORS CALL FIVE Fulton prosecutors told the jury that much of the evidence it needed to reach a verdict on sentencing already had been presented. That’s why they called just five witnesses, who completed their testimony in about 20 minutes Monday. By midday Tuesday, at least a dozen defense witnesses had testified. Some knew Al-Amin as H. Rap Brown during civil rights days when he worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Others knew him as West End Muslim leader Iman Jamil. They described him as a committed activist whose civil rights work made a difference in the lives of many and as a loving and peaceful man who was a role model to children in the community. “There are a few great men we see pass through on the earth and [Al-Amin] is one of them,” said Lionel Moltimore, who works for the city of Atlanta’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department and said Al-Amin was a beloved basketball coach. Jurors must find at least one statutory aggravating circumstance in order to consider imposing the death penalty, and prosecutors contend five such circumstances apply in this case. Jurors also may consider Al-Amin’s character and background in making their decision. A fiery Deputy District Attorney Ron E. Dixon began his opening remarks by reminding jurors that their guilty verdict had removed the label of accused from Al-Amin. “He is now a convicted murderer. He now sits buck-naked guilty. Guilty of murder,” Dixon said in a thundering tone. “Evidence has already been presented that demonstrates the brutal murder of this husband, father, son, brother and police officer deserves a sentence of death.” Dixon, whose address to the jury was interrupted several times with defense objections that it constituted argument, said he would not insult jurors’ intelligence by saying Al-Amin had done nothing good in his life. But he asked the panel to focus on the crime at issue. “In and of itself,” he added, “it justifies a sentence of death.” Defense attorney John R. “Jack” Martin adopted a softer approach. In a quiet and calm manner, he admitted that the defense was worried and approached the jury with “some fear and trepidation.” “While we really believed there was reasonable doubt,” in the case, Martin continued, the verdict spoke to the contrary. “You said, �You’re wrong, Jack.’ “ And while he insisted that the defense still believed in its case, he acknowledged that, based on the verdict, the jury clearly could find some of the aggravating circumstances necessary to impose death were present. Even so, Martin said, that would not be the end, but the beginning, of the jury’s task. The defense would show the totality of Al-Amin’s life. “No man,” he said, “can be judged only by their worst act.” Al-Amin, Martin said, was a leading spokesman for black empowerment and played an important role in the fight for civil rights. “That doesn’t excuse murder,” he told the jury. “We don’t contend that it does. We do contend that it matters.” FORMER MAYOR TESTIFIES FOR DEFENSE Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young was among the last of the high-profile defense witnesses. Young said he met Al-Amin during the civil rights movement in the 1960s, but didn’t know him very well. Young said he introduced himself to Al-Amin in the 1980s when Young’s daughter moved into Atlanta’s West End, near Al-Amin’s store. Young added that one of his daughter’s neighbors said the West End neighborhood had improved dramatically since Muslims had moved in, and that Young didn’t have to worry about his daughter’s safety. Young also said that when he met Al-Amin, the Muslim cleric asked him to help on a project, but Young didn’t follow up. The former mayor was asked to put the death of a police officer into context. “Somehow you can’t let the bitterness and hatred overtake you,” Young said. Young said his family had to make a decision about whether to ask for the death penalty in connection with the murder of an uncle. At that point, Fulton Superior Court Judge Stephanie B. Manis cut off the former mayor, and asked him not to give his personal views about another case. On cross-examination, prosecutor Dixon asked Young if he was aware that Kinchen had been an intern in Young’s office. Young said no. 1973 CONVICTION CITED Prosecutors introduced evidence of Al-Amin’s 1973 conviction in New York for robbery, assault and weapons charges. But they were barred from having three police officers testify about a shootout with Al-Amin linked to the robbery. A jury in the case deadlocked on a charge of attempted homicide. Manis found that the state had given insufficient notice of the officers’ testimony and that evidence of prior criminal conduct occurring so long ago did not meet the test of reliability. CIVIL RIGHTS RECORD CITED Defense attorneys began their portion of the evidence by presenting what amounted to a history lesson, no doubt aimed at the many young jurors on the panel. University of South Carolina professor and civil rights leader Cleveland Sellers gave the jury a primer on the civil rights movement — how it arose to fight the “horrific system built on racial prejudice” that was segregation. He explained Freedom Rides and sit-ins, and how civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman were murdered in Mississippi in 1964 and Detroit civil rights volunteer Viola Liuzzo was killed in Alabama in 1965. He recounted the Selma-to-Montgomery March, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party’s effort to be seated at the 1964 Democratic convention, and the voter registration drives in the Deep South. Sellers was among 30 students shot in 1968 on the campus of South Carolina State College in Orangeburg, S.C., by state police. The shootings, which resulted in the deaths of three students, came in the aftermath of efforts to desegregate a local bowling alley. Sellers testified that Al-Amin, like many others, became involved when he was a student. As part of the Nonviolent Action Group, an affiliate of SNCC, Sellers said Al-Amin helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, helped recruit students for Freedom Summer, and then went to Alabama himself to work for SNCC on voter registration projects. Al-Amin was “a critical organizer in the Alabama projects,” Sellers said. Many of the reforms that blacks enjoy today were directly related to the work of “unsung heroes and heroines, one of whom was Jamil Al-Amin,” he said. On cross-examination, Senior Assistant District Attorney Robert C. McBurney reminded Sellers that in today’s Atlanta, the mayor, sheriff and district attorney, as well as numerous law enforcement officers, are black. Wasn’t it antithetical to everything he ever “believed, fought for or struggled for, to gun down two African-Americans who finally made it into a position where they can wear a badge?” McBurney asked Sellers. “I think so,” Sellers said. Former SNCC worker Bob Mants, who worked with Al-Amin in Lowndes County, Ala., during the 1960s, said he had traveled on dirt roads with Al-Amin to organize blacks to register to vote and run for office. “We were cautious of the fact that each time we stepped out of the car, we could have been killed.” Al-Amin was a caring man who took time to help the “old ladies” in the community, including Mants’ mother, the witness said. Kathleen Cleaver, a law professor at Emory University, a former Black Panther and the widow of Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver, said she never heard anyone say anything bad about Al-Amin. “He had this irreverent, comic attitude toward life,” Cleaver said, that made people like him. William Abdur-Rahim, father of Hawks player Shareef Abdur-Rahim, testified that Al-Amin was instrumental in pushing drug dealers and prostitutes out of Atlanta’s West End community, and was a role model for children. PROSECUTION STRATEGY On cross-examination, McBurney tried a strategy that prosecutors began to use with other defense witnesses: pitting the witness against the jury. He reminded Abdur-Rahim that he once had told prosecutors during an interview that, if they stuck to the facts at trial, a fair-minded jury would return a just verdict. Was he satisfied with that verdict now? McBurney wanted to know. Abdur-Rahim said, “Based on what was presented in this courtroom, I think the defense defeated the prosecution. Excuse my expression, but I think the defense, they kicked your behind.” Reporter Rachel Ramos contributed to this story.

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