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Nominee for civil rights post is rejected

Debo Adegbile in 2009.

Alex Brandon/AP

Debo Adegbile in 2009.

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s choice to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division was blocked by bipartisan Senate opposition Wednesday in an emotional postscript to the long-ago murder of a Philadelphia policeman and the legal help his killer, Mumia Abu-Jamal, received.

The vote against advancing Debo Adegbile toward confirmation was 47-52, shy of the simple majority needed under new procedures Democrats put in place late last year to overcome Republican stalling tactics.

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Eight members of Obama’s party joined all 44 Republicans in preventing a final vote.

Obama swiftly condemned the action. In a statement, he called it a ‘‘travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant.’’

Adegbile, a longtime official at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, was praised by supporters for his legal skills.

But Republicans said Adegbile’s connection with the legal case of Abu-Jamal disqualified him from holding high public office.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed a brief on Abu-Jamal’s behalf in 2006 and Adegbile represented him beginning in 2011, near the end of a 30-year legal struggle that resulted in a lifetime prison sentence.

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