NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- An attorney for Tennessee death row inmate Abu-Ali Abudur'Rahman said Friday that the state attorney general is valuing "proceduralism over justice" with an attempt to scuttle a resentencing agreement.
Brad MacLean, who has defended Abudur'Rahman (AHB'-dur-RAK'-mahn) for more than 20 years, said he was totally blindsided by the attorney general's actions.
Abudur'Rahman, who is black, was resentenced to life in prison in August after raising claims that racism tainted the jury selection process. MacLean expected that to be an end to the case until he heard from a reporter that Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery had announced his office was challenging the resentencing agreement.
Slatery's appeal filed last month claims Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk had no right to agree to the resentencing. A news release announcing the appeal said Slatery's office is obligated to "defend the rule of law."
At the Friday news conference, MacLean said Slatery's office has not disputed the claims of racial discrimination but instead argues the courts should not consider them.
Funk has declined to comment on Slatery's appeal, saying only that he stands by his decision.
The Death Penalty Information Center's executive director, Robert Dunham, said he sees Slatery's actions as part of a pattern playing out in several states where reform-minded prosecutors have been elected.
In Pennsylvania, Attorney General Josh Shapiro has clashed with Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner over a request, supported by Krasner, for the state Supreme Court to invalidate the state's death penalty statute.
In Florida, former Gov. Rick Scott removed more than 20 murder cases from the jurisdiction of State Attorney Aramis Ayala after she announced she would no longer seek the death penalty.
In Tennessee, on the same day that Slatery filed his challenge to Funk's decision in Abdur'Rahman's case, he also filed requests with to set execution dates for nine death row inmates, including all remaining inmates from Funk's Davidson County district.
A statement from the attorney general's office says they are required by statute to request an execution date once an inmate reaches the end of the appeals process, and the nine cases represent all the death row inmates who have exhausted their appeals.
Funk has not commented on the execution date requests, saying only that if cases are "not currently in front of the Davidson County courts, then that's not in my jurisdiction, and I try to stay in my lane."