Wednesday, January 20, 2010

VSP Still Searching for Appomattox Shooter

At an early Wednesday morning press conference, Virginia State Police officials said they were still searching for the gunman from Tuesday's shooing in Appomattox County.

Appomattox Public Schools have been shut down, Wednesday, allowing police a safe search for the suspect.

State police say the suspect, Christopher Speight, is still alive and in the area where police are searching. They say the area is about two miles wide, east to west, and about 1,000 yards north to south.

Police say Speight had a relationship with his eight victims, although no details were released about the type of relationship between the parties.

State police would not release any motive for the shooting and will not release details on any evidence collected. They do say, however, the helicopter Speight allegedly shot, was hit by high power ammunition.

Police say they're looking for Speight's tan Ford Escort and his green Ford F-150.

Although police searched for the suspect overnight, more aggressive ground and air searches will take place once the sun rises.

Supreme Court orders review of ex-Black Panther reprieve

The US Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered a lower court to reconsider its decision to overturn the death sentence against ex-Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal for the 1981 murder of a police officer.

"The judgment is vacated, and the case is remanded to the United States Court of Appeals," the highest court in the United States said in its ruling.

"The decision is not bad," said Abu-Jamal's lawyer Robert Bryan in a statement. "Now we must go back to litigating the issue of the death penalty in the lower federal court," he said.

Abu-Jamal's death sentence was overturned in March 2008 by a three-member Pennsylvania court in a two-to-one vote.

The court upheld the former Black Panther's conviction for the murder of white Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, but ruled that the jury in Abu-Jamal's 1982 trial had been given faulty instructions by the judge during sentencing.

The jury was mistakenly led to believe that it could not consider mitigating factors against sentencing Abu-Jamal to death unless all the jury members agreed on the particular factor.

Pennsylvania appealed that ruling, citing another death penalty case in which it said similar instructions were given but the sentence was still upheld.

That case involved Frank Spisak, who was convicted of three murders in Ohio and attended his trial wearing a carefully-cultivated Hitler-style moustache and proudly expressed a desire to kill blacks, Jews and homosexuals.

Abu-Jamal's lawyer Bryan said Tuesday's Supreme Court's decision "was unavoidable in view of the Spisak case ruling."

But he disputed the similarities between the two cases.

"What occurred in Mumia's case is different both procedurally and factually from the jury instructions in Spisak," he said.

The ruling is a second Supreme Court setback for Abu-Jamal in as many years.

Last year, the Supreme Court refused to take up an appeal he filed challenging his conviction and requesting a new trial.

Abu-Jamal, 55, has claimed innocence during his 28 years on death row, and he and his supporters have said his trial was fundamentally unfair and racist.

His supporters claim the verdict against him was predetermined because he was an African-American and a founding member of the radical leftist Black Panthers movement accused of killing a white police officer.

Ten of the prosecution's 15 challenges against potential jurors in the trial were used to strike blacks from the jury, which was ultimately composed of 10 white members and two black members.

And the judge overseeing his trial was even reported to have declared: "I'm going to help them fry the nigger."

Further tarnishing the conviction, in 1999 a man named Arnold Beverly swore an affidavit saying he was hired by a local mafia organization to kill Faulkner in 1981 because the policeman was investigating organized crime in Philadelphia.

The doubt thrown on his trial, as well as his outspoken commentary and striking long dreadlocks, have made Abu-Jamal an icon for campaigners against the death penalty.

He has attracted the support of numerous celebrities and high-profile activists, and in France he was declared an honorary citizen by Paris and had a street named for him in a Paris suburb.