NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Supporters of Tennessee death row inmate Abu-Ali Abdur’Rahman kicked off a clemency campaign on Tuesday amid uncertainty over whether his death sentence will be upheld.
Abdur'Rahman (AHB'-dur-RAK'-mahn) was sentenced to die in 1987 for the murder of Patrick Daniels, who was stabbed to death. Norma Jean Norman was also stabbed but survived.
In August, after 32 years on death row and with Abdur'Rahman’s execution date approaching, Nashville’s district attorney agreed to convert the death sentence to life in prison. The agreement came after the inmate, who is black, raised claims that black potential jurors were excluded from the jury pool at his trial.
Less than a month later, Tennessee’s attorney general appealed the agreement. Since both the attorney general and the district attorney represent the State of Tennessee, Abdur’Rahman’s defense attorneys cried foul, arguing that Attorney General Herbert Slatery lacks the power to challenge an agreement with another prosecutor.
While they wait for the courts to resolve the issue, Abdur’Rahman’s supporters must prepare for the possibility that his death sentence will be upheld. He’s currently scheduled to be executed April 16.
Speakers at a “ Justice for Abu ” event at American Baptist College in Nashville on Tuesday included several people who have visited the inmate for years. They said he’s not the same man who went to prison three decades ago.
They spoke about his work over many years to recover from the physical and sexual abuse he suffered as a child and young man and become a peacemaker within the prison. That work included earning a state certification as a mediator.
Ed Miller, an attorney involved in prison ministry through Nashville’s Christ Church Cathedral said that meeting Abdur’Rahman changed his life. He refers to the prisoner as a brother and believes that if Abdur’Rahman had had a better defense attorney he would never have been sentenced to death.
Linda Manning, who is a psychologist as well as Abdur’Rahman’s spiritual adviser, said, “He has turned the horrors of his past into a passionate mission, working to prevent violence and promote healing.”