A judge orders the state to conduct a new sentencing hearing soon or sentence Mumia Abu-Jamal to life in prison...

MUMIA ABU-JAMAL, the man on death row whose case has become a cause celebre for many hip-hop and rock stars, including BEASTIE BOYS and RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, had his sentence thrown out yesterday (December 19) by a federal judge who ordered a new sentencing hearing.

However, Philadelphia District Judge William Yohn stopped short of demanding a new trial. He cited problems with the jury charge and verdict during the original trial and ordered the state conduct a new sentencing hearing within the next six months or sentence Abu-Jamal to life in prison. His decision was hailed as victory by supporters, including RATM’s Tom Morello.

“The overturning of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s death sentence is a tremendous victory for the cause of justice,” Morello said. “The noose has been removed from this political prisoner’s neck for the time being thanks in large measure to persistent public outcry. Remember this is a case that is being tried both in the courts and in the streets.”

Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther, was convicted in 1982 of the 1981 killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. According to the prosecution at the time, Abu-Jamal’s brother was pulled over by Faulkner and the two became involved in a scuffle. Abu-Jamal was charged with stepping in and shooting the policeman in the back. Abu-Jamal has hit himself in the chest when Faulkner returned fire. He was said to have shot the policeman a further four times. While many see him as brutal killer, supporters see Abu-Jamal as the victim of a racist set-up.

The Beastie Boys and Rage Against The Machine, held a benefit concert for him in 1999, while some proceeds from the album ‘Unbound Project: Vol.1’, featuring artists including Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek, Dilated Peoples and Blackalicious, went to help Abu-Jamal’s defence and support fund.