French television made the latest court decision on Mumia Abu-Jamal the lead story on the nightly news.

Supporters in San Francisco and New York City planned rallies for today.

And in Philadelphia, Pam Africa of MOVE vowed to launch a "massive demonstration" in Center City on April 26.

The worldwide network of supporters of the death-row celebrity yesterday decried the decision by a federal appeals court to reject his bid for a new trial.

"This is no victory in any sense of the word," said Africa, who runs the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal. "In fact, this is a divisive, deceptive plot to fool people into thinking they had done something fair by Mumia."

Abu-Jamal, a former radio journalist, is on death row in Pennsylvania for killing Police Officer Daniel Faulkner in an early-morning shoot-out on Dec. 9, 1981, near 13th and Locust Streets. A federal appeals court yesterday refused to reinstate his death sentence but reaffirmed Abu-Jamal's conviction.

While supporters of Abu-Jamal were outraged, friends and family of Faulkner greeted the decision with a mix of satisfaction and disappointment.

John McNesby, president of Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he was thrilled that a three-judge panel stood by the first-degree-murder conviction.

"It shows he is what he is - a stone-cold cop killer," McNesby said.

But McNesby questioned the court's decision to throw out the death-penalty conviction. "

Disappointed

is an understatement," McNesby said.

Michael Smerconish, the columnist and radio talk-show host who is coauthor with Faulkner's widow, Maureen, of

Murdered by Mumia: A Life Sentence of Loss, Pain and Injustice

, said he also was "elated that the federal court has firmly closed the door on any question of guilt or innocence and come down on the side of guilt."

But like McNesby, he said he was "terribly disappointed" by the court's decision not to reinstate the death penalty.

In making that decision, the appeals court affirmed a ruling by U.S. District Judge William H. Yohn Jr. that the jury in Abu-Jamal's 1982 trial might have been confused by the wording of instructions on a jury form. Yohn said jurors might have mistakenly believed they had to agree unanimously on any "mitigating" circumstances.

Smerconish called that "semantic B.S." If ever there were a case that warranted capital punishment, he said, this is it. "And if we're not going to use it in this case, then take it off the books," Smerconish said.

Abu-Jamal's case has become a worldwide phenomenon, spawning an international network of celebrity supporters who maintain that he is a victim of racial injustice in the U.S. court system.

Stars including Alec Baldwin, Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Glover; directors such as Oliver Stone and Spike Lee; and authors including E.L. Doctorow and Maya Angelou have all lent their support to Abu-Jamal. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Nelson Mandela took up his cause.

Rock bands including Rage Against the Machine held fund-raising concerts. A town in France named a street after Abu-Jamal. And supporters in Brazil and Germany also were planning protests outside U.S. embassy buildings in response to the latest court ruling.

Suzanne Ross of the Free Mumia Coalition of New York City said supporters would take to the streets of Harlem today "to let people know that, yet again, black people in this country are not getting justice."

She said a rally was planned for 5 p.m. in front of the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. state office building on 125th Street.

"The court's determination to silence Mumia's voice has not slackened over the years," Ross said. "People all over the world have called for a new trial."

Jeff Mackler, a San Francisco coordinator of the Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, said his supporters wanted a new trial on grounds that "blacks were systematically excluded from Mumia's 1982 trial, thereby negating the conviction."

Defense lawyers for Abu-Jamal argued that in the mid-1980s, Philadelphia prosecutors routinely excluded black jurors. Abu-Jamal was convicted by 10 white and two black jurors.

"Our organization and all the others supporting Mumia will be protesting across the country," Mackler said.

The Partisan Defense Committee of New York called the appeals court decision "another slap in the face to all opponents of racist injustice."

In a statement, the legal defense organization said, "A former Black Panther Party spokesman, MOVE supporter and renowned journalist, Mumia is an innocent man, framed up for his political beliefs. . . . There must be mass protests, centered on labor's power, to demand his freedom now."

Contact staff writer Jennifer Lin at 215-854-5659 or jlin@phillynews.com