- - Sunday, December 22, 2019

So many years have passed since Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner was murdered by Mumia Abu-Jamal in December 1981, yet the convicted cop killer’s court appeals go on and on, as does the suffering of Faulkner’s widow, Maureen Faulkner.

In Maureen Faulkner’s 2007 book, “Murdered by Mumia: A Life Sentence of Loss, Pain, and Injustice,” she recounts how she was told that her Philadelphia police officer husband had been shot and killed back in 1981,

“The knock. That rap on the door that is the dread of all of the spouses of people who put their lives on the line — cops, firefighters, EMTs, the military, each profession with its own protocol. I got the knock in the early morning hours of a bitter-cold Wednesday, December 9, 1981, when my fitful slumber was interrupted by the thud of destiny. 

“That’s how I learned my relationship with Danny of 913 days, 396 of which we were married, was over. The horrors of the night had started with a knock and ended with a scream. I remember shrieking and crying and thinking I was in a nightmare, hoping I could be dreaming, and it wasn’t true.”

But it was true, and her nightmare continues. Abu-Jamal, a militant and former Black Panther, was convicted of first-degree murder in 1982 based on eyewitness testimony, ballistics and his confession at the hospital after the shooting. His death penalty sentence was later commuted to a life sentence, and his many appeals continue to this day.

But so does the fighting spirit of Maureen Faulkner. Her latest battle is with Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. Last month, she asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to remove the DA from the Abu-Jamal case due to conflicts of interest and transfer it to the Pennsylvania attorney general.

“We have a district attorney who I believe is confusing criminal justice reform for criminal justice anarchy,” her attorney, George Bochetto, said. “Mumia could be free by Christmas on the streets.” 

Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain, a frequent critic of the Philadelphia DA, spoke of the case in October when he appeared before the Executive Board of the Citizens’ Crime Commission of the Greater Delaware Valley.  

“The District Attorney’s Office’s handling of this case since Krasner took office in 2018 has paved the way for what I believe is Krasner’s long-term play in this case — to become this unrepentant cop killer’s savior and add another tally to his dashboard by freeing yet another convicted murderer,” Mr. McSwain said.

“Krasner’s response to a series of defense moves during the most recent phase of this litigation shows an alarming pattern — one showing Krasner’s office backing away, every chance it gets, from its obligation to fight to preserve the jury’s guilty verdict. 

“Even though Krasner technically represents the Commonwealth — that is, the people of Pennsylvania and the victim’s family – his actions confirm that he does so in name only. Instead, he is using his power to side with Abu-Jamal and his lawyers rather than fight for those whom he is supposed to represent.”

He explained that Abu-Jamal was pursuing his fifth “bite at the apple” of post-conviction review in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. He said that the DA has been willing to lay down rather than fight to defend the original jury’s guilty verdict. Mr. McSwain said the DA took three dives in the case rather than oppose Abu-Jamal’s litigation maneuvers, which set the stage for a friendly judge to decide whether “new evidence” warrants a new trial.

“Abu-Jamal only has to convince one judge to rule in his favor rather than a panel of Superior Court judges or a majority of Justices sitting on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court,” Mr. McSwain said. 

“By not opposing remand, Krasner just increased Abu-Jamal’s chances of winning a new trial by knocking out two levels of appellate review and cutting multiple judges out of the deliberative process. It’s classic Krasner-style prosecution, which is marked by inaction rather than action; silence rather than opposition; defense-oriented tactics rather than prosecutorial zeal.

“What Krasner wants is to see Abu-Jamal walk out of prison.” 

In my view, Abu-Jamal should have been executed for the murder of a 25-year-old cop, but at the very least he should die in prison for the heinous crime.

“What should have been a simple story of senseless murder and young life lost would eventually assume a much larger cultural significance,“ Maureen Faulkner writes in her book. “Still, in the early days after the murder, nobody who read about the events in Philadelphia could have predicted that Abu-Jamal would become the poster boy for an international anti-death penalty campaign. Why should he? He murdered my husband.”

• Paul Davis covers crime, espionage and terrorism.  

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