ATLANTA (AP) _ A jury deliberated for about five hours before deciding to spare the life of former '60s radical H. Rap Brown for the slaying of a sheriff's deputy.
Rejecting prosecutors' call for the death penalty, the panel decided on a life term with no parole Wednesday for the Muslim religious leader now known as Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin.
The same jury found Al-Amin guilty of killing Fulton County Deputy Ricky Kinchen and wounding deputy Aldranon English in a shootout in Al-Amin's southwest Atlanta neighborhood on March 16, 2000. English survived and identified Al-Amin as the shooter.
After the verdict, the defense continued to contend that English was mistaken in his identification and that someone else shot the deputies. They also claim Al-Amin was framed as part of a government conspiracy that has followed him since his days as a radical civil rights activist.
``He's alive _ and that creates another day for us to fight,'' said Al-Amin's brother, Ed Brown, reacting to the jury's decision. He said Al-Amin plans to appeal.
Al-Amin, wearing traditional Muslim attire of white robe and knitted white hat, showed no emotion when the jury's decision was read. The judge immediately sentenced him, adding 35 years for related offenses in the 13-count indictment.
``I wish we'd done a better job,'' defense attorney Jack Martin said. ``But we're not going to stop until we've exonerated Mr. Al-Amin.''
The jury had three options: death, a life sentence with no parole, or life with the possibility of parole. Jurors declined comment afterward.
``This is just a starting point for us to heal and go on,'' said Lisa Francis, sister of Sherese Kinchen, the slain deputy's widow, after the sentencing.
Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard said his office and Kinchen's family were satisfied with the sentence, even though his prosecutors had argued for death.
Defense attorneys implored the jury to spare Al-Amin's life, noting his civil rights work in the '60s and how he has helped clean up his once crime-ridden neighborhood.
English testified that Al-Amin leveled a high-powered assault rifle and open fired when the deputies tried to serve him with an arrest warrant in March 2000. Then, prosecutors said, he raised a Browning 9 mm handgun and fired three shots into Kinchen's groin as the wounded officer lay in the street.
Al-Amin leads one of the nation's largest black Muslim groups, the National Ummah. The movement, which has formed 36 mosques around the nation, is credited with revitalizing poverty-stricken pockets such as Atlanta's West End, where Al-Amin owned a grocery store.
He is familiarly known as H. Rap Brown, a '60s militant who served as a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In 1967, he characterized violence as a vital tool for blacks, ``as American as cherry pie.''
Brown changed his name when he converted to the Dar-ul Islam movement in the 1970s while serving a five-year sentence for his role in a robbery that ended in a shootout with New York police.