Tennessee Supreme Court Halts Abu-Ali Abdur'Rahman Execution

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery says that while he doesn't agree with a deal arranged by Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk to see Abu-Ali Abdur'Rahman's death sentence vacated, his office won't be appealing it. That means nearly 20 years after coming within days of execution in 2002, Abdur'Rahman is staying off death row for good. 

Nashville Criminal Court Judge Monte Watkins last month approved a plea deal that replaced Abdur'Rahman's death sentence with three life sentences. Abdur'Rahman was convicted in 1987 for the Nashville killing of Patrick Daniels and stabbing of Norma Jean Norman, who survived the attack. But in 2019, Funk sought to have the death sentence vacated citing evidence of racist bias in jury selection and other prosecutorial misconduct. Watkins approved a similar deal then, which Slatery appealed. The new deal was thought to be on more solid legal ground. 

In a letter to Funk's office, Slatery says he still believes the deal violates the law but that he won't appeal to a higher court. 

"My office has reviewed the court's order, and we have significant concerns about its legality," Slatery writes. "Despite these concerns, we have decided not to appeal, in part, because we think it would be unfair to expose Mr. Abdur'Rahman to continued uncertainty about his sentence."

He added: "This decision not to appeal should not be taken by you or anyone else as tacit approval of the order obtained or the positions you have taken."

Abdur'Rahman is one of two men to be removed from Tennessee's death row recently. Pervis Payne saw his death sentence vacated last month after prosecutors conceded the argument over whether he was too intellectually disabled to be executed.