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The Conservative Curmudgeon
September 25, 2008

Murdered by Mumia:
The Elite’s Crusade on Behalf of a Convicted Cop-Killer
by Allan C. Brownfeld

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 and motions....”

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 compelling reading.

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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 is included.

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 East Affairs.

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