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Abu-Ali Abdur’ Rahman, a/k/a James Lee Jones Off Death Row in Tennessee

Abu-Ali Abdur’ Rahman, a/k/a James Lee Jones, Tennessee

November 12, 2021

Abu-Ali Abdur’ RahmanAbu-Ali Abdur’ Rahman, a/k/a James Lee Jones, has been removed from death row in Tennessee. Seventy-one-year-old Abu-Ali was convicted of the murder of Patrick Daniel on February 17, 1986, in Nashville, Tennessee. Abu-Ali spent over 30 years on death row in Tennessee.

Abu-Ali had a difficult childhood, often suffering from beatings, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, and torture at the hands of his father. One of Abu-Ali’s siblings, who was also abused, committed suicide in 1997, while a third, his sister, has spent significant time in a mental institute. The family moved frequently when Abu-Ali was a child, as his father was in the military. At the age of 18, Abu-Ali spent time in a federal youth facility after being convicted of robbery. While at the facility, Abu-Ali was repeatedly raped by a gang leader, whom he eventually killed.

After being released from prison for murder, Abu-Ali eventually moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and reunited with one of his brothers. He also joined the Southeast Gospel Ministry, a Black consciousness religion organization with the purported goal of improving the African-American community. Abu-Ali Abdur’ Rahman, then known as James Lee Jones, alleges that it was this religious group that sent him, along with his co-worker, Harold Devalle Miller, to the home of Patrick Daniels, a small-time marijuana dealer, in Nashville, on February 17, 1986. Upon arriving at Harold’s apartment, Jones and Miller forced their way inside and discovered Harold’s girlfriend, Norma Norman, and her two children also at the apartment.  

The two children were locked in a bedroom, while Norma and Harold would bound with duct tape and blindfolded. Both were also stabbed. One of the stab wounds pierced Harold’s aorta artery, killing him. Jones and Miller had intended to simply scare Harold into leaving the neighborhood.

Two days later, Jones and Miller were both identified as suspects by the police. Miller fled the state, while Jones continued working as if nothing was wrong. Jones claimed he had no memory of the crime. Approximately one year later, police finally arrested Miller, who agreed to testify against Jones in exchange for a 25-year sentence. Miller has since been released from prison.

While in prison, James Jones converted to Islam and changed his name to Abu-Ali Abdur’ Rahman. Since his trial, Abu-Ali has alleged that he had ineffective trial counsel, a claim which is not disputed by his trial attorney, who says that he was overworked during the trial, missed numerous filing deadlines, and found the trial date unexpectedly creeping up on him, leaving him with little to prepare a proper defense or investigate mitigating evidence. Mitigating evidence included claims of mental incompetency and prolonged stays at mental institutions during Abu-Ali’s life, in addition to numerous mental illness diagnoses.  

Supporters of Abu-Ali also point to the physical evidence that was not shown to jurors, which could have caused doubts about Abu-Ali’s guilt. Supports also claim that the prosecution misled jurors to believe facts that were not true or that had been exaggerated.

Abu-Ali has had at least four previous execution dates. All received stays. Lawyers of Abu-Ali have been attempting to remove him from death row for some time. An agreement was reached with a local district attorney in 2019, however, the state district attorney opposed that deal, leading to the case ending up back in court. Now, in a new deal, Abu-Ali will serve three consecutive life sentences, in addition to his ongoing federal life sentence.

Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Patrick Daniel. Pray for the family of Abu-Ali.  Please pray that Abu-Ali will come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

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