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At 4:50 p.m., prosecutors and defense lawyers began mulling over how to respond to a note from jurors deliberating the fate of Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin. The panel wanted to know what would happen if they couldn’t agree. The answer: Keep deliberating. At 5:25 p.m., Fulton County, Ga., Superior Court Judge Stephanie B. Manis announced the jury’s decision: Al-Amin would be sentenced to life without parole. Jurors Wednesday chose the middle ground of their sentencing choices — death, life without parole and life with the possibility of parole. They did so after twice asking the minimum time Al-Amin would serve if he had the possibility of parole. They were told he must serve at least 14 years. Al-Amin, formerly known as H. Rap Brown, 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, shoot-out in Atlanta’s West End. The day began with emotional closing arguments. Prosecutors emphasized the brutal nature of the crime and the fact that it involved a police officer. They argued repeatedly that Al-Amin had shown no remorse. Defense lawyers argued that lingering doubt as to Al-Amin’s guilt should rule out a sentence of death, as should his contributions as a civil rights activist nearly 40 years ago. Lawyers on both sides strayed perilously close to forbidden topics and prompted a number of bench conferences. DAY BEGINS WITH TENSION Arguments for the sentencing phase of trial began after five long minutes of silence in the courtroom as participants waited on jurors to enter. Prosecutors stood at attention waiting for the panel, while defense attorneys, as has been their custom, remained seated. The courtroom was hushed and tense. When the jury was seated, Fulton Deputy District Attorney Ron E. Dixon began for the state. He told the jury that the two deputies, who had come to Atlanta’s West End to serve a warrant on Al-Amin for failure to appear in court on criminal charges, “didn’t known Jamil Al-Amin from Idi Amin [a brutal former Ugandan dictator], or H. Rap Brown from James Brown, the godfather of soul.” Nor did they know, Dixon added, that Al-Amin was “armed to the teeth with weapons designed to maim and kill.” The killing of an officer in the performance of duty alone justifies the death penalty, Dixon argued, in a booming sermonlike style. That’s because society recognizes that the police perform a dangerous job, he said, and that “if someone like the defendant dares to murder them in cold blood, then they will face the death penalty.” Kinchen’s murder involved depravity of mind, Dixon said, telling jurors that Al-Amin stood over the already-wounded deputy and fired three shots into his genitals. Dixon displayed a photograph to illustrate the damage done to the deputy, asking rhetorically, “If that’s not depraved, then what is it?” Should jurors consider lesser punishments, he said, they should ask themselves, “Have you seen any remorse?” It was a remark that came close to a comment on Al-Amin’s failure to testify, but apparently not close enough to warrant a mistrial. Defense lawyer John R. Martin leaped to his feet to object. After a private bench conference with both lawyers, Manis reminded the jury that Al-Amin was not required to take the stand. Dixon continued, asking again, “Have you seen one indication that this defendant is remorseful?” Martin objected again, but Manis said, “Denied.” REFERENCE TO TIMOTHY MCVEIGH Dixon acknowledged the defense witnesses who testified to Al-Amin’s dedication to the civil rights movement in the 1960s as a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. The defendant, he said, had done good things in his life. “I’m told that Timothy McVeigh was a decorated war veteran,” Dixon said, referring to the convicted Oklahoma City bomber. Martin again jumped up, calling the comparison “outrageous.” Manis sustained his objection. Dixon continued, “The fact that [Al-Amin] did something good in his life does not make Ricky Kinchen any less dead. The fact that the defendant registered voters in the ’60s does not make this any less brutal a murder.” Dixon also drew an objection from Martin when he called the jury’s sentencing decision a “recommendation,” a word that might indicate to jurors their decision could be overridden. Dixon clarified by saying it was a “binding judgment.” The jury’s decision, Dixon said, comes down to a choice of right or wrong. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “A man who will not stand up for what is right is dead,” Dixon said. “You have the opportunity to let this defendant know that you are not dead.” When his turn came, Martin began to speak as he stood from the defense table. He said he was bothered that Dixon would invoke the words of King, a believer in nonviolence and mercy, “to ask a jury to kill somebody.” Martin pointed in the air with two fingers as he made his point: “Make no mistake about it. If you return that verdict [of death], it will be carried out.” The standard of reasonable doubt, he told jurors, might be sufficient to send someone to jail, but “When we’re talking about death, we insist on something more.” Martin told the jury that any lingering doubts they had should be reason enough to discard a sentence of death, because death, he added, is irrevocable. He brought up some of the same arguments the defense had made in the guilt-innocence phase to convince the jury that doubt existed that Al-Amin had committed the crime. “I’m not here to retry the case,” he said. But, he added, “The worst tragedy would be for an innocent man to go to lethal injection. It’s happened before.” That latter remark brought Dixon to his feet. “That is improper argument,” he objected. After another private bench conference, Martin continued. “The fact that you might be wrong is in and of itself the most powerful reason not to impose the death penalty,” he said, adding that jurors should ask themselves, “Are we certain? Are we certain to the degree we should be before we kill someone?” Martin said the defense didn’t “concede [Al-Amin's] responsibility for this murder, but we accept your decision.” He told jurors they shouldn’t overlook Al-Amin’s courage and commitment to civil rights in the 1960s. Al-Amin and others “risked their lives to change our lives,” he said. “I appeal to your best, not your worst,” Martin argued. “I appeal to your hopes for the future, not your fears. I appeal to the possibility and the reality of redemption in all of us, not the brutal satisfaction of revenge. The best in us, not the worst,” he said. “So I say to you with my heart and soul, with the heart and soul of everyone at that table,” he said as he pointed toward Al-Amin, “Don’t kill this man.” Turning back to the jury, he repeated, “Don’t kill this man.”

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