Supporters fight to save death row inmate

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Abu-Ali Abdur'Rahman

Abu-Ali Abdur’Rahman attends a hearing Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. Abdur’Rahman, who was convicted of murder and is scheduled to be executed next April, claims that prosecutors’ racially motivated dismissal of potential black jurors resulted in an unfair trial. A court order presented at the hearing will convert Abdur’Rahman’s death sentence to a sentence of life in prison if approved by the judge. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Supporters of a death row inmate convicted of murder are trying to save his life.

People backing Abu-Ali Abdur’Rahman gathered at Christ Church Cathedral Friday, where the inmate is affiliated.

“That day was his birthday, October the 15th. We gathered out at Riverbend. Arrangements were made for him for that service of confirmation to take place there. For me it was a very moving time,” said Dean and Rector Timothy Kimbrough.

Abdur’Rahman was convicted of killing a suspected drug dealer back in the 1980s.

A judge agreed in August to throw out his death sentence over allegations the lead prosecutor was racist, and kept black people off the jury.

“Mr. Abdur Rahman’s case involves ineffective assistance of council, prosecurial misconduct, mental illness, and of course issues of race,” said Supervisory Assistant Federal Public Defender Kelley Henry. “There is no question that the rogue district attorney general used insidious racial stereotyping to remove African American jurors from Abu-Ali’s trial.”

Tennessee’s Attorney General Herbert Slatery is challenging the deal, saying the judge did not have the authority to change his sentence.

“When the appointed attorney general is appealing this decision, he is not representing the state of Tennessee, the state of Tennessee has been spoken for by the duly elected district attorney general,” Henry said. “When we learned that District Attorney General Glen Funk had reviewed the evidence in this case and determined that the just result was to amend the judgment so that Abu would be taken off death row, one of the things that we talked to him about was his plan to take this rule 31 mediation training that he has received and grow that within the prison.”

Supporters say Abdur’ Rahman is an asset to the prison community. His execution date is set for April 16, 2020.

“I consider Mr. Abu Rahman as a colleague and a fellow teacher,” said Professor Phyllis Hildreth. “Losing him would be an unfathomable loss to me. More importantly, it would be an unbearable loss to this community.”

In a response filed Monday, the inmate’s attorneys argue Slatery’s action threatens the division of power between the attorney general and local prosecutors. They argue that Funk does not require Slatery’s approval nor can Slatery veto Funk’s decisions.

He would still spend the rest of his life in prison.

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