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Attorneys argue Al-Amin's fate

ATLANTA, March 11 (UPI) -- A prosecutor Monday urged jurors to ignore defense pleas for mercy and sentence Muslim cleric Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin to death for the murder of a Fulton County Sheriff's Deputy two years ago.

Al-Amin, once known as H. Rap Brown a member of the 1960s militant Black Panthers group, was convicted Saturday of killing Fulton County Sheriff's Deputy Ricky Kinchen and wounding Deputy Aldranon English on March 16, 2000.

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The jury that convicted Al-Amin, 58, after about 10 hours of deliberations must now reach a unanimous decision on whether he should be given the death sentence or a life sentence with or without the possibility of parole.

As the sentencing phase began, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Manis ruled that prosecutors could introduce evidence about Al-Amin's 1971 conviction on charges of aggravated assault and armed robbery.

Manis said, however, that she would not allow prosecutors to call three New York police officers as witnesses during the sentencing hearing. She said their testimony would be too dated and prejudicial to be relevant.

Assistant District Attorney Ron Dixon told jurors that they had heard enough evidence to justify giving the death penalty to Al-Amin, a Muslim cleric known for his fiery rhetoric as a Black Panther in the 1960s. He is expected to call English's widow and mother as witnesses during the sentencing phase.

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Defense attorney Jack Martin said the jury should look at "the totality of the person."

"No one should be judged only on their worst act," he said.

Supporters of Al-Amin held a rally as the sentencing hearing began. They also published a half-page newspaper advertisement that said "there has been a blind rush to judgment" in the case.

"The allegations against Al-Amin are completely at odds with the character of the man we knew in the civil rights movement," said the advertisement, which included the names of more than 200 people, including some civil rights leaders.

Al-Amin was convicted of murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and obstruction of a law enforcement officer in connection with the shooting, which occurred as the two officers tried to serve a warrant on him for failing to appear in court on an unrelated felony charge on March 16, 2000.

Al-Amin, who was arrested in a small Alabama town four days after the shooting, did not take the stand in his defense during the trial.

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