- The Washington Times - Friday, December 28, 2001

I shot the …, and I hope the … dies." So said Mumia Abu-Jamal, according to eyewitnesses, after gunning down Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.
A former Black Panther, a former journalist (who worked for Philadelphia's version of public radio's "All Things Considered"), Abu-Jamal was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. However, he has managed to avoid his date with the executioner for much of the past two decades.
This week, the cop killer got an undeserved Christmas present. A federal district judge ruled that Abu-Jamal should get a new sentencing hearing, at which a new jury could downgrade his original sentence from death to mere life in prison.
Judge William Yohn Jr.'s decision was mostly cheered by the convicted murderer's radically chic supporters, who were disappointed only that the jurist did not declare Abu-Jamal innocent and return him to society.
"We feel Judge Yohn has done a little thing with great love and has saved a life that never should have been at risk in the first place," said the cop killer's lawyer, J. Michael Farrell.
Mr. Farrell insists that his client has spent the past 19 years on Pennsylvania's death row for a murder he did not commit. That Abu-Jamal didn't get a fair trial. That he was sentenced to murder merely because of his race and his politics.
In Hollywood, where, unsurprisingly, Abu-Jamal's crusade to escape justice has become a cause celebre, they call that "suspension of disbelief." The knowing and willful denial of reality.
This is what we know:
On Dec. 9, 1981, Officer Faulkner spotted a car driving the wrong way down a one-way street with its lights off. He pulled over the driver, William Cook, Abu-Jamal's 25-year-old brother. Cook got out of the car and started tussling with the officer. Moments later, Abu-Jamal arrived on the scene, packing his .38-caliber revolver.
Eyewitnesses say Abu-Jamal shot the officer in the back. The officer returned fire, wounding the gunman. But not enough to prevent Abu-Jamal from firing off several additional shots, including the final fatal shot to the officer's face at point-blank range.
Abu-Jamal was arrested at the scene with the weapon that murdered Officer Faulkner. He was taken to a hospital emergency room where, according to medical personnel who treated him, he boasted of having blown away the 25-year-old police officer.
And now Abu-Jamal's blindly loyal supporters suggest his trial, his conviction, his death sentence were all unjust.
The only injustice is that the convicted cop killer has been able to work the legal system for the past two decades, filing appeal after dubious appeal, endlessly delaying the punishment he so richly deserves for taking the life of a peace officer.
Indeed, said the understandably outraged district attorney, Lynne Abraham, Abu-Jamal's "case was thoroughly reviewed by the state Supreme Court. It was reviewed innumerable times by the state post-conviction court." She noted that Abu-Jamal has never testified on his own behalf at any of the court proceedings that have been held over the past two decades. Nor has he produced his own brother, who was at the scene of the murder.
But he has, she added, "offered up various individuals who would claim that one trial witness or another must have lied, or that some other individual has only recently been discovered who has special knowledge about the murder."
And, again, those who are willing to suspend disbelief are all too eager to accept that Abu-Jamal, rather than Officer Faulkner, was the victim on that fateful day in December 1981.
But here's something that Abu-Jamal's supporters ought to ask: Why is it that he has never stated, unequivocally, that he did not shoot and kill Officer Faulkner? Not in a court of law. Not in the two books he has authored while awaiting his appointment in the execution chamber.
Indeed, in his 1995 book, "Live from Death Row" (William Morrow) Abu-Jamal wrote, "I continue to fight against this unjust sentence and conviction." He didn't deny he shot the officer in the face at point-blank range. He simply professed his sentence and conviction "unjust."
It was the same in his 1997 book, "Death Blossoms" (Plough Publishing House). While the foreword, penned by Harvard University professor Cornel West, declared Abu-Jamal "unjustly imprisoned for a crime he did not commit," nowhere in the book does the convicted killer himself assert that someone other than he was responsible for the officer's death.
That's because, while Abu-Jamal's lawyers and fund-raisers and publishers and Hollywood cheerleaders have convinced themselves that the convicted killer is innocent have suspended disbelief Abu-Jamal himself is under no illusion.
He knows he murdered officer Daniel Faulkner. He earned his death sentence.

Joseph Perkins is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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