The former H. Rap Brown, the Black Panther of the 1960s who later became leader of one of the nation's largest black Muslim groups, was found guilty yesterday in the March 16, 2000, killing of a sheriff's deputy and the wounding of another.
Now known as Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, the 58-year-old Muslim cleric, dressed in white from head to foot, had no visible reaction as the verdict was read. The jury in Atlanta deliberated for 10 hours over two days after hearing more than two weeks of testimony in a trial originally scheduled for last fall. The judge had postponed it out of the fear that anti-Muslim sentiments after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks would influence the jury pool.
The jury will reconvene on Monday to begin the penalty phase of Al-Amin's trial, deciding if he will get life imprisonment or the death penalty. Al-Amin was found guilty of 13 charges, including murder and aggravated assault on a police officer. Deputy Ricky Kinchen was killed, and Deputy Aldranon English was wounded in the shootout that ensued in Atlanta's West End community as the officers tried to serve Al-Amin with a Cobb County warrant on minor charges.
Al-Amin was arrested four days after the shooting, in rural White Hall, Ala. Ballistics tests showed that a Browning 9mm pistol found in the vicinity when Al-Amin was captured was tied to Kinchen's shooting.
At the trial, defense attorneys said that this was a case of misidentification and that someone else had shot the officers. The defense also suggested that Al-Amin was framed by a government conspiracy, in a continuation of a politically based persecution dating back to the '60s.
When defense attorney Jack Martin suggested that FBI agents could have planted the murder weapons at the arrest scene, Judge Stephanie Manis stopped him from pursuing a racial motive, asking him what "card" he was trying to play.
Earlier, English had taken the stand for the prosecution and positively identified Al-Amin as the shooter. He also testified that Al-Amin pulled an assault rifle and began firing as the officers approached him. The wounded Kinchen was then shot three times in the groin with a 9mm pistol.
Al-Amin first burst onto the national scene in the 1960s as a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and later was a prominent Black Panther. He converted to Islam and changed his name during the 1970s as he was serving a five-year sentence for his participation in a robbery that ended in a shootout with New York police.
After his release, he moved to Atlanta, where he owned a grocery store and became leader of the Muslim group the National Ummah, which reportedly has 36 mosques around the country. The group has received praise for its work in reviving poorer neighborhoods such as the West End community.