PHILADELPHIA A federal judge threw out Mumia Abu-Jamal's death sentence on Tuesday, ruling that the former journalist and Black Panther is entitled to a new sentencing hearing for killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981.
U.S. District Judge William Yohn ordered the state to conduct the hearing within 180 days.
"Should the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania not have conducted a new sentencing hearing ... the Commonwealth shall sentence petitioner to life imprisonment," the judge said in his 272-page ruling.
Abu-Jamal is America's most famous death-row inmate revered by a worldwide "Free Mumia" movement as a crusader against racial injustice, and reviled by the officers's supporters as an unrepentant cop-killer who deserves to die.
The judge refused Abu-Jamal's request for a new trial, upholding his 1982 conviction on first-degree murder charges.
The ruling could be appealed to the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.
Abu-Jamal was convicted of shooting officer Daniel Faulkner, 25, during the early-morning hours of Dec. 9, 1981, after the officer pulled over Abu-Jamal's brother in a downtown traffic stop.
© 2001 The Associated Press