Maureen Faulkner's husband, Philadelphia police officer Danny Faulkner,
was shot between the eyes on a cold December night in l98l. Mumia Abu-Jamal
was unanimously convicted of the crime by a racially mixed jury based
on the testimony of several eyewitnesses, his ownership of the murder
weapon, matching ballistics, and his own confession.
After his conviction, a national anti-death penalty crusade was started
to “Free Mumia.” Mike Farrell, Ed Asner, Whoopi Goldberg,
and Jesse Jackson rallied on his behalf. While on death row, Abu-Jamal
published several books, delivered radio commentaries, was a college
commencement speaker, and was named an Honorary Citizen of France.
In a new book, Murdered by Mumia (The Lyons Press), Maureen Faulkner
and popular radio talk show host and journalist Michael Smerconish
carefully lay out the case against Abu-Jamal and those who have elevated
him to the status of political prisoner. Smerconish, an attorney, has
provided pro bono legal counsel to Faulkner for over a decade, as appeal
after appeal was brought by Abu-Jamal's lawyers. Smerconish declares
that, “My reading of 5,000 pages of trial transcripts starkly
revealed that Abu-Jamal murdered Danny Faulkner in cold blood and that
the case tried in Philadelphia in l982 bears no resemblance to the
one being homecooked by the Abu-Jamal defense team.”
Facts of the Case
The facts of the case, as determined in court, are clear. At 3:45 a.m.
on December 9, l98l, Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner
stopped a beat-up Volkswagon driven by William Cook. Cook, who was
allegedly driving in the wrong direction on a one-way street, got
out of the car. While Officer Faulkner was using a flashlight to
examine what was probably Cook’s driver’s license, Cook
struck Faulkner. In response, Faulkner smacked Cook with his flashlight,
spun him around, and started to frisk him.
As Faulkner searched Cook, a cab driver and one-time radio journalist
and Black Panther activist named Mumia Abu-Jamal (born Wesley Cook)
came up behind him and opened fire with a .38 revolver at close range.
Although Faulkner was hit in the back, he managed to return fire and
hit his attacker in the lower chest. As Faulkner writhed on the ground,
Abu-Jamal stood over the wounded officer and executed him with a point-blank
shot to the head.
These facts led a Philadelphia jury to convict Mumia Abu-Jamal and
sentence him to death. But for the last 26 years, these facts have
been disputed by a powerful cadre of lawyers, liberal and radical politicians,
the virulent anti-police radical group called MOVE, and anti-death
penalty celebrities. And for 26 years Maureen Faulkner has been fighting
back with every bit of energy and resources she could muster.
The embrace of Mumia Abu-Jamal by many in the media, the academic
world, Hollywood, and political leaders, is incredible. Consider some
of that support.
The New York Times
On August 9, l995, a full-page ad appeared in The
New York Times. It
prominently listed such Hollywood supporters of Abu-Jamal as Alec
Baldwin, Mike Farrell, Spike Lee, Susan Sarandon, and Oliver Stone.
The Times ad also included the following signatories: Shana Alexander,
Maya Angelou, Russell Banks, Derrick Bell, Noam Chomsky, Kerry Kennedy
Cuomo, Ronald V. Dellums, David Dinkins, Henry Louis Gates, Danny
Glover, Gunter Grass, Charles Rangel, Gloria Steinem, Alice Walker,
and Cornel West.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
During a l995 court hearing of an appeal by Abu-Jamal, The
Philadelphia Inquirer reported that, “Outside the courtroom, Harvard philosophy
and religion professor Cornel West likened Abu-Jamal to jazz great
John Coltrane and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.... West compared
the atmosphere in the courtroom to ‘Mississippi.’” Judge
Albert Sabo ruled that Mumia did not deserve a new trial.
National Public Radio
National Public Radio (NPR) decided to offer airtime to Mumia. His
prison essays about life on death row were to be carried by the All
Things Considered program. A public backlash ensued. Arnold Gordon,
the first Assistant District Attorney of Philadelphia, wrote to Delano
Lewis, president and CEO of NPR, on the day that Abu-Jamal's commentaries
were set to be aired. He declared: “You have rewarded the murderer
of a 25-year-old police officer who left a grieving widow, and a
mother, by giving him a platform from which to address perhaps millions
of listeners. Who is your next media star—Sirhan Sirhan? John
Hinckley? Jeffrey Dahmer? Have you no sense of decency, no sense
of what is right and wrong?"
NPR scrapped the project, but Pacifica Radio, a radical media outlet,
decided to air the already taped segments that had been banned by NPR.
To this day, Abu-Jamal remains a commentator on Pacifica Radio.
On July 7, l996, HBO aired a one-hour documentary about Mumia entitled
A Case for Reasonable Doubt. Maureen Faulkner reports that, “The
City of San Francisco... joined the pro-Abu Jamal parade and actually
honored the man who murdered my police officer husband. And they
did it in grand style. Three thousand supporters gathered at Mission
High School's auditorium in August l997 for the event. The key speakers
were Geronimo ji Jaga (Pratt), a former Black Panther who spent 27
years behind bars for murdering a couple (a ‘political prisoner’ if
you believe the pro-Abu-Jamal literature), and author Alice Walker.
The event raised $30,000 to help pay Abu-Jamal's continuing defense
bills. San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, Jr., presided at the event.”
Abu-Jamal has even been a commencement speaker. Students at Evergreen
State College in Olympia, Washington, select their own commencement
speakers. The class of l999 wanted Abu-Jamal. One year after his
taped address at Evergreen State, students at Antioch College in
Ohio asked Abu-Jamal to be a speaker at their 2000 commencement.
Maureen Faulkner traveled to Antioch, and after a vigil she held she
said, “We were ushered to the actual graduation to be quarantined
in a specific area, far from the actual ceremony, cordoned off by a
blue ribbon. I had planned on attending a graduation ceremony at a
college, but (I'm not exaggerating) it was like one of the rallies
the Nazis staged at Nuremberg. The buildings surrounding the open-air
stage and spectator seats were adorned with streaming banners. Oversized
posts with Abu-Jamal's haunting grimace were everywhere, and ‘Free
Jamal’ banners waved in the wind.”
On December 4, 200l, the Paris City Council voted to name Mumia an “Honorary
Citizen” of Paris. The last time such an honor was bestowed was
to artist Pablo Picasso in l97l.
Death Sentence Contested
On June l, l995, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge finally signed Abu-Jamal's
death warrant for the 1981 murder. In l982, Abu-Jamal had been convicted
and sentenced to death. In l989, his conviction and sentence were
upheld by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The Commonwealth’s
highest court also rejected subsequent appeals in l995, l996, and
l997. Now, with state appeals exhausted, Abu-Jamal has turned his
attention to the federal courts.
Maureen Faulkner states that, “I never could have imagined that
seven years into the next century my family and I would still be taking
time from our lives to attend appeals hearings. This process is obscene
in the way it taints survivors’ lives for so long. You can never
move on. There's never any closure; just endless rounds of hearings
This book tells us the story of a courageous woman, a flawed criminal
justice system, and a body of elite opinion, both in the U.S. and abroad,
willing to overlook the facts of a criminal case and make a martyr
of a cold-blooded killer. As Abu-Jamal's lawyers contemplate their
final appeal, this never-before-told account of one fateful night is
The Conservative Curmudgeon archives
The Conservative Curmudgeon is copyright © 2008
by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com.
All rights reserved. Editors may use this column if this copyright information
Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which
is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has
been a staff aide to a U.S. Vice President, Members of Congress, and
the U.S. Senate Internal Subcommittee.
He is associate editor of The Lincoln Reveiw and a contributing
editor to such publications as Human Events,
The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle
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