Death Row Inmate's Sentence Reduced to Life in Prison After Claims Jury Marred by Racism

A judge has found a Tennessee death row inmates' trial to be tainted with racism and resentenced him to life imprisonment.

Abu-Ali Abdur'Rhanman was found guilty and sentenced to execution in 1987 for the murder of Patrick Daniels.

On Tuesday, almost 30 years after his original sentencing, Judge Monte Watkins changed the conviction because Watkin's found that Abdur'Rhanman's right to a fair trial was violated.

In 2019, Abdur'Rhanman, who is a Black man, appealed for an alternative sentence because he presented evidence that white prosecutors and white jurors treated him differently.

Apparently, prosecutors told the judge they excluded a Black, college-educated preacher from the jury pool because he appeared uncommunicative and uneducated. Instead, white jurors who were less educated served.

Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk first proposed a deal on Abdur'Rhanman's behalf to change his execution sentence to three life sentences.

"Overt racial bias has no place in the justice system," Funk said during the 2019 hearing.

"Further, and most importantly, the pursuit of justice is incompatible with deception. Prosecutors must never be dishonest to or mislead defense attorneys, courts, or juries," Funk said.

Now Abdur'Rhanman will spend his life in jail without the fear of execution. Abdur'Rhanman's execution date was set for April 9, 2020, but was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Death row inmate sentence changed
A Tennessee judge overturned Abu-Ali Abdur'Rahman's death sentence after it was found that racial bias took place when the jury was selected for his trial. In this August 28, 2019 file photo, Abdur'Rahman attends a hearing in Nashville, Tennessee. Mark Humphrey/AP Photo

The state Attorney General's Office could still appeal Abdur'Rahman's resentencing. That's what happened in 2019, the first time Watkins threw out Abdur'Rahman's death sentence.

His attorneys eventually signed an agreement with Attorney Funk to reduce his sentence in return for Abdur'Rahman agreeing to drop any future appeals. At the time, Katrina and Shawanna Norman said they were relieved that the legal maneuverings were finally over.

In an unusual move, the state Attorney General's Office appealed, arguing that Watkins didn't have the authority to modify Abdur'Rahman's sentence based merely on an agreement with the district attorney. The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals agreed. It said Watkins could review the petition again but ordered him to follow procedures outlined in the appeals court's decision. That order set the stage for Tuesday's do-over.

A spokesperson for the Attorney General's Office said in an email that prosecutors are reviewing Watkins' order and "considering next steps."