SUPREMES SAYS "WHOA!" IN TENNESSEE
U.S. Supreme Court issues stay of execution for Tennessee killer seeking appeal.
Mon Apr 8, 8:41 PM ET
By AMBER McDOWELL, Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE, Tennessee - The U.S. Supreme Court (news - web sites) delayed the execution of a condemned murderer until it could decide whether a judge should hear his claims that prosecutors didn't turn over evidence, made misleading statements and improperly prepared witnesses.
Before Monday's delay, Abu-Ali Abdur'Rahman, 51, was to die by lethal injection early Wednesday for the 1986 murder of a Nashville drug dealer.
Abdur'Rahman wants a federal judge in Nashville to hear his claims of misconduct by prosecutors, which he says lead to his death sentence in 1987.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in February ruled against a hearing, saying a review of the allegation is precluded by a federal law that limits death penalty appeals. Defense lawyers argue their claims should be reviewed under a different federal rule.
A decision from the Supreme Court justices was expected next week, said Abdur'Rahman's attorney, Brad MacLean.
"We've always had the faith that we would get relief," MacLean said. "It's unfortunate that it's taken so long."
If the high court decides not to allow a judge to hear his appeal, the stay of execution will be lifted and the state will set a new date.
State Attorney General Paul Summers had no comment Monday. "We'll just wait and see what the courts decide," said his spokeswoman, Sharon Curtis-Flair.
Last October, the Supreme Court turned down an another appeal from Abdur'Rahman. His lawyers had asked the court to consider whether better legal help could have persuaded a jury to sentence him to life in prison for the stabbing death Patrick Daniels.
Abdur'Rahman claimed his old attorneys didn't present evidence of his history of mental illness and child abuse.
Abdur'Rahman was on parole for killing an inmate at a federal prison in Virginia when he killed Daniels. He said he was trying to cleanse the Nashville community of drug dealers who sold to children.