April 1, 2008
LAW/POLITICS: Mumia Abu-Jamal Is Still Guilty of Murder. Police Officer Daniel Faulkner Is Still Dead.
On Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed yet again the 1982 conviction of the man who calls himself Mumia Abu-Jamal for murdering Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, who Abu-Jamal took from his family more than 26 years ago. That conviction was upheld on direct appeal in 1989, an appeal the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear at the time, but has been the subject of successive habeas corpus petitions ever since, this one supported by the efforts of a flotilla of lawyers with apparently nothing better to do from, among others, Widener University School of Law, The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., and the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School (the latter appearing on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild, National Conference of Black Lawyers, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice of Harvard Law School, Southern Center for Human Rights, and National Jury Project). The court did, however, vacate the death sentence handed down by the jury in 1982 and the death warrant signed by Governor Tom Ridge in 1995, and remanded for a new penalty proceeding. I have not plowed through the entirety of the court's 118-page opinion, which deals with Abu-Jamal's challenges to the jury selection and the prosecutor's closing argument as well as the penalty phase, but it's worth reading the introduction to be reminded just what a cold-blooded killer and political extremist Abu-Jamal was and is, and how utterly meritless is the suggestion that he is anything but guilty. I excerpt here at length:
On December 9, 1981, between three thirty and four o'clock in the morning, Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner made a traffic stop of a Volkswagen driven by William Cook, Abu-Jamal's brother, on Locust Street between 12th and 13th Streets, in Philadelphia. Officer Faulkner radioed for backup assistance, and both men exited their vehicles. A struggle ensued, and Officer Faulkner tried to secure Cook's hands behind his back. At that moment, Abu-Jamal, who was in a parking lot on the opposite side of the street, ran toward Officer Faulkner and Cook. As he approached, Abu-Jamal shot Officer Faulkner in the back. As Officer Faulkner fell to the ground, he was able to turn around, reach for his own firearm, and fire at Abu-Jamal, striking him in the chest. Abu-Jamal, now standing over Officer Faulkner, fired four shots at close range. One shot struck Officer Faulkner between the eyes and entered his brain.
Within a minute of Officer Faulkner's radio call, Officers Robert Shoemaker and James Forbes responded. Robert Chobert, a taxi cab driver who had just let out a passenger at 13th and Locust, stopped the officers before they arrived at the scene and notified them an officer had just been shot. Officer Shoemaker then approached the parked Volkswagen on foot and observed Abu-Jamal sitting on the curb. Despite Officer Shoemaker's repeated orders to freeze, Abu-Jamal did not remain still and reached for an object Officer Shoemaker could not yet identify. As Officer Shoemaker inched closer, he saw a revolver on the ground close to Abu-Jamal's hand. Officer Shoemaker kicked Abu-Jamal in the chest to move him away from the gun, and then kicked the gun out of Abu-Jamal's reach. Officer Shoemaker then motioned for Officer Forbes to watch Abu-Jamal while Shoemaker attended to Officer Faulkner. During this time, Officer Forbes also searched Cook, who had remained at the scene and was standing near the wall of an adjacent building. Cook made only a single statement: "I had nothing to do with it."
Additional officers arrived on the scene. Officer Faulkner was immediately rushed to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. Officers took Abu-Jamal into custody. He resisted arrest while officers moved him to a police van and tried to handcuff him. Abu-Jamal was also taken to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. While Abu-Jamal was waiting for treatment in the emergency room's lobby, Priscilla Durham, a security guard on duty at the hospital, heard Abu-Jamal twice repeat, "I shot the motherf***er, and I hope the motherf***er dies." Officer Gary Bell also heard Abu-Jamal make this statement. Hospital personnel then took Abu-Jamal into the emergency room for treatment.
Officer Forbes recovered two weapons from the scene. A standard police-issue Smith & Wesson .38 caliber Police Special revolver, registered and issued to Officer Faulkner, with one spent Remington .38 special cartridge, was found on the street about five feet away from Officer Faulkner. Ballistic testing later confirmed the bullet that struck Abu-Jamal was fired from Officer Faulkner's revolver. A Charter Arms .38 caliber revolver containing five "Plus-P" high-velocity spent cartridges was found on the sidewalk near Abu-Jamal. Abu-Jamal had purchased this revolver in June 1979 and it was registered in his name. Officer Anthony Paul, supervisor of the Firearms Identification Unit in the Laboratory Division of the Philadelphia Police Department, testified at trial that the bullet recovered from Officer Faulkner's head was badly mutilated and could not be matched with a specific firearm. Officer Paul also testified that the recovered bullet specimen had eight lands and grooves with a right hand direction of twist, which was consistent with a bullet fired from a Charter Arms revolver.
The Commonwealth presented four eye-witnesses at trial. Cynthia White testified she saw Abu-Jamal run out of a parking lot on Locust Street as Officer Faulkner attempted to subdue Cook, and saw Abu-Jamal shoot Officer Faulkner in the back. She testified she then watched Officer Faulkner stumble and fall, and then saw Abu-Jamal hover over Officer Faulkner, shoot him a few more times at a close distance, and then sit down on the curb. Robert Chobert testified he heard a shot, looked up, saw Officer Faulkner fall to the ground, and then saw Abu-Jamal fire a few shots into Officer Faulkner. At the scene, Chobert identified Abu-Jamal as the person who shot Officer Faulkner. Michael Scanlon testified he witnessed an assailant, whom he could not identify, shoot Officer Faulkner from behind, then watched the officer fall, and saw the assailant stand over the officer and shoot him in the face. Albert Magliton testified he saw Abu-Jamal run across the street from the parking lot, then he heard shots and saw Officer Faulkner on the ground and Abu-Jamal on the curb. Magliton identified Abu-Jamal as the shooter, both at the scene and at trial.
On December 15, 1981, Anthony Jackson was appointed counsel for Abu-Jamal. Abu-Jamal was arraigned on charges of first degree murder and other related charges. The court granted Abu-Jamal's request to proceed pro se and the court designated Jackson, who had spent five months preparing for trial, as backup counsel.
A jury trial commenced on June 7, 1982. Abu-Jamal was disruptive, uncooperative, and hostile. He repeatedly insisted that John Africa, a social activist who was not a lawyer, be appointed as counsel, even after the court denied this request. Abu-Jamal's conduct necessitated his removal from proceeding pro se for the remainder of the trial, and at times caused him to be physically removed from the courtroom. The jury was instructed against drawing negative inferences from his removal. Jackson, who was present throughout the entire trial and was reinstated as primary counsel when Abu-Jamal was removed, kept Abu-Jamal fully informed throughout the proceedings.
During the lengthy trial, Jackson cross-examined each witness called by the prosecutor. Abu-Jamal presented seventeen witnesses: eight fact witnesses and nine character witnesses. Neither Abu-Jamal nor Cook testified at trial.
(Edited only for language). More on the case from the Faulkner family website here; press summary here.
Pray, if you will, for the repentance of Mr. Abu-Jamal, and his opportunity to seek God's forgiveness for what he has done and what he took from Officer Faulkner and his family. But no earthly justice can be done by allowing him to evade indefinitely the lawful and proper consequences of his crime.
This whole case is extremely unfortunate and it is sad that members of the Faulkner family have passed away before the case is settled. Whether you are for or against the death penalty, the victim and the victim's family have rights along with the accused (in this case guilty). For anyone interested in the case, I would reccomend a gritty book by Daniel Faulkner's widow, Maureen Faulkner titled, Murdered by Mumia." It is also telling that the support for Jamal comes from New York, Los Angeles, and France (where protests have been held), but hardly any support of sucstance comes from Philadelphia where the shooting and trial occurred.