In 1987 Abu-Ali Abdur’Rahman was convicted for the murder of Patrick Daniels, a known drug dealer in North Nashville. In a case that was marred by what many observers say was racial bias and prosecutorial misconduct, he was sentenced to death.
Persuasive evidence indicates that Abdur’Rahman, who is mentally ill, was not the assailant who killed Patrick Daniels; however that evidence was not presented at his trial.
One of the jurors, Loretta Simpson, said: “I do not want Mr. Jones executed under these conditions. I absolutely, as a juror, would have wanted to have heard all the information about Mr. Jones before deciding his sentence. I most definitely would have voted for life.”
Earlier this year, Abu-Ali Abdur’Rahman was given an execution date of April 16, 2020.
Looking at the case, both District Attorney General Glenn Funk, and Judge Monte Watkins agreed with Abdur’Rahman’s defense team, approving an agreement that would allow Abdur’Rahman to spend the rest of his life in prison instead of being put to death.
However, in a surprise move, State Attorney General Herbert Slatery is trying to undo that decision, seeking to assume jurisdiction over the case.
The defense team for Abu-Ali Abdur’Rahman filed its response to the Attorney General’s motion on Monday. The response offered no objection to the High Court taking up a case tainted by prosecutorial misconduct that now threatens the long-standing division of power between the District Attorney General and the State Attorney General.
According to the filing, District Attorney General Glenn Funk is the duly elected ‘chief law enforcement official’ for the 20th Judicial District and speaks for the state on criminal matters in that District, including post-conviction claims. In other words, by statute, the DA is the state in these matters. It does not require the approval of the Attorney General, nor is the Attorney General allowed to supervise or veto the District Attorney’s decisions.
“In this case, when Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Monte Watkins, another duly elected public official, issued his Order reopening Mr. Abdur’Rahman’s post-conviction case on his claim of racial discrimination in jury selection, General Funk was mandated to respond,” stated Abdur’Rahman’s legal team.
After careful consideration of the evidence and consultation with all parties, including the victims and victims’ family members, General Funk made a decision to bind the state to an agreed resolution that would keep Mr. Abdur’Rahman in prison for the rest of his life but take him off of death row. Judge Watkins, after taking the matter under advisement and considering the evidentiary record, signed and entered the consent decree to “correct an injustice,” finding that its terms were “fair and equitable.”
“The Attorney General, an appointed official with no direct connection to Davidson County, now seeks to challenge the consent decree, purportedly on behalf of the state, even though the state has already bound itself to the consent decree. The basic nature of a consent decree is finality. It is binding. It is not appealable. Even if it were, the state cannot appeal its own agreement, just because a different representative of the state doesn’t like the outcome.
“The state of Tennessee is a single entity. It may not speak with two voices. The Attorney General’s motion before this Court obscures a simple fact: the state has been spoken for in this matter.
“The criminal court did what courts are supposed to do. It corrected injustice. The District Attorney General Funk did what his duty required him to do: he sought justice rather than to win a case at any cost. It is the Attorney General who oversteps in seeking to protect a death sentence grounded in racism and deceit and defend the malfeasance of a rogue prosecutor.”