NEW YORK (PRNewswire-USNewswire) — The U.S Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a request from the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office to overturn the most recent federal appeals court decision declaring Mumia Abu-Jamal's death sentence unconstitutional.

The court's decision brings to an end nearly 30 years of litigation over the fairness of the sentencing hearing that resulted in Abu-Jamal's being condemned to death. He will be automatically sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole unless the district attorney decides to seek another death sentence from a new jury.

The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund (LDF) and Prof. Judith Ritter of Widener Law School represent Abu-Jamal in the appeal of his conviction and death sentence in the 1981 murder of a police officer in Philadelphia.  The Supreme Court's decision marks the fourth time that the federal courts have found that the sentencing jury was misled about the constitutionally mandated process for considering evidence supporting a life sentence. 

“At long last, the profoundly troubling prospect of Mr. Abu-Jamal facing an execution that was produced by an unfair and unreliable penalty phase has been eliminated.” John Payton, president and director-counsel of the LDF, said in a statement announcing the high court’s decision. 

Ritter added, “Our system should never condone an execution that stems from a trial in which the jury was improperly instructed on the law.”

The case will now return to the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas for final sentencing.

Photo: Mumia Abu-Jamal