Tennessee Supreme Court issues stay of execution for Abu-Ali Abdur'Rahman

Abu Ali Abdur'Rahman interview.jpg
Posted at 3:44 PM, Dec 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-11 16:44:26-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Tennessee Supreme Court issued a stay of execution for death row inmate Abu-Ali Abdur'Rahman.

Abdur'Rahman was convicted of murder in 1987, and his execution was set for April 16, 2020.

However, in August, Abdur’Rahman and Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk agreed to convert the inmate’s death sentence to life imprisonment, over concerns of racial discrimination during jury selection before Abdur’Rahman’s original trial in 1987.

In light of the deal, Abdur’Rahman agreed to drop his request for an entirely new trial. Nashville judge Monte Watkins approved the deal between Funk and Abdur’Rahman last month. In turn, Abdur’Rahman agreed to drop his request for an entirely new trial.

But Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery didn't agree with the deal and filed an appeal. Slatery said neither Funk nor Watkins had the authority to make or approve the deal.

Slatery asked that the Tennessee Supreme Court immediately take up the appeal, rather than the traditional path of sending the case to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals first. Tennessee law allows the state supreme court to exercise it’s “reach-down” power – bypassing lower courts and immediately assuming jurisdiction over a case – in rare instances of “unusual public importance” where the case presents a “special need for expedited decision” and involves “issues of constitutional law.”

In the court filing, Slatery argued that all three conditions exist for the court to use its reach-down power. However, on Wednesday, the court denied his request, allowing the traditional appeals process to take place.

The appeal will likely not make its way to the high court by April, and a new execution date would be set.