Jewish World Review Dec. 21, 2001 / 6 Teves, 5762
Debra J. Saunders
Mumia finds safety in numbers
CONVICTED COP killer Mumia Abu-Jamal's motto should be: If at first you don't succeed, keep filing appeals.
It doesn't matter if you make patently false claims or assertions with no factual basis. It's a matter of numbers.
Keep throwing stuff at the courts; eventually a soft-touch judge will come along.
Witness U.S. District Judge William Yohn's decision to uphold Abu-Jamal's conviction, but overturn the death
penalty, pending a new sentencing trial.
In 1982, a jury found Abu-Jamal guilty of the 1981 shooting of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, 25.
Faulkner was shot five times, once between the eyes. Faulkner had pulled over Abu-Jamal's brother William
Cook for driving the wrong way on a one-way street. Abu-Jamal saw what was happening from across the
street; he shot Faulkner. Faulkner shot back. Police found Faulkner fatally wounded and Abu-Jamal, with a bullet
wound in his chest and his .38-caliber handgun, with five spent shell casings. Four eyewitnesses testified at the
trial. A jury sentenced him to death.
Groupies of the former Black Panther -- many in the Bay Area -- who believe he is an innocent victim of a racist
prosecution should read Yohn's 272-page decision, because, oddly, Yohn makes a slam-dunk case of refuting
the Free- Mumia crowd's fantastic claims.
The defense team has tried to impugn prosecution witnesses while claiming other witnesses would exonerate
Abu-Jamal. Yohn, however, notes that their testimony was either not exculpatory or not credible. (As in the
witness who claimed that Faulkner spoke and fired his gun after being shot in the face with a bullet -- which
experts deemed "medically impossible.")
As Philly District Attorney Lynne Abraham noted in a statement Tuesday, Abu- Jamal "never produced his own
brother, who was present at the time of the murder, (yet) he has 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; or that someone has fallen out of the skies, who is supposedly
willing to confess to the murder of Officer Faulkner."
The last reference was to a man who says he was hired by the mob to kill Faulkner -- which even Abu-Jamal's
former defense team finds incredible.
David Elliot of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty finds Yohn's decision "bittersweet" because it
does not call for new evidentiary hearings. Elliot faulted the "original lawyers." When I mentioned Abu-Jamal was
his own lawyer, Elliot questioned Abu-Jamal's qualifications. And Abu- Jamal's backup counsel had tried some
20 first-degree murder cases; only six were convicted, with none sentenced to death.
Faulkner's widow Maureen has every reason to fume. Yohn threw out the death penalty because jury instructions
did not adhere to a 1997 interpretation of a federal appellate ruling in 1988. As Abraham complained, no trial
judge or prosecutor "could have known of some new rule that would not even be announced by the federal circuit
court until over a decade and a half later."
No doubt many readers believe Abraham should not appeal, if only to save money. Wrong. As spokeswoman
Cathie Abookire noted, "Every crime victim deserves to know without a doubt that their case will be prosecuted
to the fullest extent of the law and we're not going to just say never mind."
Or as a pro-Mumia Web site boasts: "Think of how the people will be emboldened to fight back when Mumia
walks free." If a lone judge can overturn a 20-year sentence based on a technicality that didn't exist in 1982,
what's to stop another judge from throwing out the guilty
Comment JWR contributor Debra J. Saunders's column by clicking here.
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