Supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal are rejoicing today that prosecutors have ended their 30-year effort to put the former journalist to death in the killing a white police officer.
“There’s never been any doubt in my mind that Mumia Abu-Jamal shot and killed Officer Faulkner. I believe that the appropriate sentence was handed down by a jury of his peers in 1982,” said Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, the city’s first black district attorney, according to the Associated Press. “While Abu-Jamal will no longer be facing the death penalty, he will remain behind bars for the rest of his life, and that is where he belongs.”
The racially charged case has been a cause célèbre for decades and Abu-Jamal has received worldwide attention as the court challenges have gone through every level of the system. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear in the case in October.
Prosectuors apparently dropped the death penalty effort with the approval of Faulkner’s widow.
Here is an excerpt from a 2006 Washington Post story:
More importantly, Washington noted, every generation has its case that comes to define broader issues of race and justice -- such as the famed Scottsboro Boys, black men accused of a rape in Alabama in the 1930s -- and the Abu-Jamal case has become that case for the late 20th century.
In 1981, Philadelphia was not only near the peak of a generation of urban decay and population flight, but it was still feeling the aftershocks of the divisive 1970s and the mayoralty of Frank Rizzo, who was tough on crime but also dogged by allegations of police brutality.
Abu-Jamal, born Wesley Cook, was at the center of that maelstrom. As a youth, he had been active for a time with the Black Panthers. As a radio journalist, he had covered some of the major race-related stories of the 1970s, most notably the running battle between the city authorities and the radical group MOVE. Over time, Abu-Jamal grew close to the MOVE effort. He even sought to have the group’s founder, John Africa, defend him in his 1982 murder trial.
Most people who have followed the case believe that Abu-Jamal’s association with MOVE has cut both ways -- helping to publicize his case, especially after the notorious 1985 bombing that killed 11 MOVE members and burned a chunk of Philadelphia, but perhaps keeping him from winning new allies in Philadelphia, where many saw the radical group as a polarizing force.
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