He Still Shot the Sheriff

|

Remember Mumia Abu-Jamal, the cop-killing NPR contributor who rallied legions of campus radicals during the 1990s to protest his innocence? There was a time when every demonstration —anti-globalization, anti-war, anti-whatever—featured an organized division of "Free Mumia" types. In 2002, the Paris City Council conferred honorary citizen status on Jamal, and in 2006 the city named a street after him. Quite a step down from Rue Eisenhower and Place du Général Patton. But the Mumia cause soon faded—when everyone (but Parisian politicians) realized that he was guilty. In his book Dude, Where's My Country, Michael Moore admitted that "Mumia probably killed that guy. There, I said it. That does not mean he should be denied a fair trial or that he should be put to death." And according to this report in the Philadelphia Inquirer, he won't be put to death anytime soon:

A federal appeals court today refused to reinstate the death sentence of world-famous death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, but left intact his murder conviction in the 1981 shooting death of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that Abu-Jamal must be sentenced to life in prison or get a chance with a new Philadelphia jury, which would decide only whether he should get life in prison or be sentenced—again—to death.

The judges left intact his first-degree murder conviction, rejecting Abu-Jamal's claim that he deserves an entirely new trial and a chance to prove his innocence.

Full story.

Maureen Faulkner, the widow of the Philly cop killed by Jamal, has a new book about the case.

NEXT: Successful Medical Necessity Defense in Texas Marijuana Case

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I never got the left’s fascination with Mumia.

    There are thousands of innocent people in jail in this country who were unfairly railroaded by over-zealous prosecutors, and they use that asshole as their poster boy?

  2. Fry Mumia

  3. Geno’s had a lot of anti-Mumia stickers on its wall last time I was there.

  4. There are thousands of innocent people in jail in this country who were unfairly railroaded by over-zealous prosecutors, and they use that asshole as their poster boy?

    Excellent point. Where are they for Corey Maye?

  5. FREE Mumia?

    OH!

    I thought they were saying what NLI said.

    Now I understand why the other demonstrators were getting so upset.

  6. Cesar: their obsession with Mumia did enormous damage to the credibility of wrongly convicted persons.

  7. Bingo I agree and my cynical side makes me wonder sometimes if the free Mumia people were agent provocateurs funded by law-and-order types.

  8. I never got the left’s fascination with Mumia.

    Ditto. I truly don’t understand.

  9. Even in my college-lefty days, I didn’t understand the fascination with this guy.

    Leonard Peltier is a more sympathetic case in my mind, and there’s no question he “did it.”

  10. I think part of the facination with Mumia by some of the left is that those people really are not interested in freeing the innocent as much as they are interested in emotional political theater. Mumia was an activist. Mumia writes books. Mumia is a brilliant at playing the part of victim and political prisonor. Mumia is about the narative and the movement and what he represents. It is not about the truth of whether he killed that guy. It is about the narative and truth that it shows. Now, someone like Corey Maye doesn’t show the narative as well because Corey Maye isn’t an activist and was engaged in the act of defending his home. He doesn’t further the narative the way Mumia does. The fact that Corey Maye is innocent and Mumia guilty as hell really doesn’t matter to the people who want Mumia freed.

  11. Been following this dirtbag from my state since early 1980s. Some of the theories his defenders have offered would be comical if they weren’t such an affront to common sense and justice.

    Such as a witness offered on appeal who claims that Mumia didn’t do it; it was a guy with Johnny Mathis hair who drove up in a red car and killed the officer.

    Or another who said another guy killed the officer, and that when the witness went over to the dying officer, he told him to tell his wife and children of it, perhaps forgetting in his dying moments that he didn’t have any children.

  12. I never got the left’s fascination with Mumia.

    I suspect it shares a lot with the whole “Che” crowd: A bunch of people wanted to feel good fighting for a perceived injustice, and didn’t look into things like “facts” and “evidence.”

  13. Joe,

    I think Peltier is guilty but you are right, he is a hell of a lot more sympathetic than Mumia. It just goes to show the power of public relations.

  14. Does anyone know about the circumstances under which this cop was shot? The linked articles don’t go into that, and I live in a cave.

  15. I never got the left’s fascination with Mumia.

    He had the right haircut, and the right politics.

  16. On Ben Stein’s Money I actually said “Mumia Abu Jamal” as the answer to a question. I got it wrong, and Nancy mocked me for it. “No, I didn’t ask for the name of your taxi driver!” The question was about some activist who wrote books from behind bars. I didn’t know who it was, so I guessed Mumia.

    Anyway, instead of free Mumia, I think we should compromise and have 50% off Mumia.

  17. Free Mumia*

    *With purchase. Void where prohibited.

  18. @duster

    Does anyone know about the circumstances under which this cop was shot? The linked articles don’t go into that, and I live in a cave.

    My cave gets wikipedia. doesn’t yours?

    ‘Course, that articles has an active edit history, and I would be cautious of anything but the barest facts presented.

    Seems the officer was shot during a traffic stop, as was Mumia. Only one of them recovered.

  19. Leonard Peltier is a more sympathetic case in my mind, and there’s no question he “did it.”

    After the early nineties, Peltier placards became rare and were supplanted by Mumia placards. I’m assuming that like shoulder pads, leg warmers and pop stars, these things have their “season” as does every other fad.

  20. A lot of it was just opposition to the death penalty. Caryl Chessman wasn’t a nice guy either, but he attracted a movement simply because a lot of people don’t think even criminals deserve to die.

    There’s also a reasonable case to be made that Mumia didn’t get a fair trial. There was a good article in the American Lawyer a while back arguing, to my eyes persuasively, that Mumia was guilty but still deserved a new day in court.

    But that doesn’t answer the question of why, of all the people facing executions who had screwy things happen at their trials, it’s this guy who became the international cause. I think John’s speculations in his comment at 3:01 are probably on target.

  21. The left gets on the Mumia case because they are a herd. They go wherever their shepherds tell them. Put up a couple of celebrities and make it look cool and all of the sudden all these mindless college kids and activists become a caricature of the real efforts to free real innocent people, nut bums like Mumia and harming those efforts in the process.

  22. Well I am opposed to the death penalty, except for public officials so I at least agree with that concept, although it is not applied evenly which almost makes me want to oppose it in this case.

  23. Jesse,

    There’s plenty of evidence that Mumia actively created and atmosphere to subvert his own fair trial, so that he could later claim he never got a fair trial.

    Agitate your enemies into an act of violence, then decry their violent behavior. Nothing new here.

  24. Once got into a heated argument in a college courtyard about this loser … circa 1997? Anyways, I was quickly surrounded by about a dozen or so foaming-at-the-mouth types that hurled statements like “capitalist pig” “cop-lover” “racist bastard” my way. The situation quickly turned ugly when a dreadlocked, African-colors sporting man took a swing at me.
    Luckily, he missed. He was restrained by a few of his friends, and I thought all was well as I retreated to the cafeteria – unfortunately I was followed by two radical lesbian, English department “wimmin” types and they continued to harass me while I stood in line for nachos. It ended when one of them threw their soda on me. All the while my friends stood by and watched, afraid to defend in the face of the crazed vitriol of Mumia defenders. All because I said ” He’s guilty”.

  25. All because I said ” He’s guilty”.

    You said it 60 days before an election. That speech isn’t free, son.

  26. If the Free Mumia movement has an unintended benefit, it’s that it immediately allows one to identify those whose political views should be ignored.

    Rage Against the Machine comes to mind. (The only coherent message I can glean from them is that they’re not too keen on that George Bush).

  27. Ponyboy,

    On second thought, be honest here. You said “he’s guilty, you patchouli stank, mullet-sporting, subaru-driving, tool-belt-sporting beatches!”, didn’t you.

  28. Paul: Nick Gillespie wrote a funny article a while back about Mumia’s courtroom behavior.

  29. 27 years in prison is sufficient for his crime (which he obviously did commit), so I wouldn’t mind seeing him released. But he has only himself to blame for screwing up his original trial.

  30. Mumia gets the attention he does because he is eloquent and charismatic. And, as Jesse points out, he didn’t get a fair trial in a city at a time where the police were not seen as particularly fair in their dealings with black radicals (the context matters a whole bunch in the narrative http://www.mindfully.org/Reform/MOVE-Phihladelphia-BombNYT14may85.htm). It is the combination that makes his narrative work for so many people.

    He probably killed the officer.
    But he was convicted of murder in a pretty sketchy trial.

    I think the “innocent until proven guilty thing” is an important aspect of our judicial system. “Proven guilty” requires a fair trial.

    A fair trial might have come up with manslaughter, or some other reduced charge, or may not have put him on death row.

    I agree that Peltier is a more sympathetic figure.

  31. Paul … oh, how I wish I had! It would have made the sticky, soda stained shirt and pants worth it!

  32. A better MOVE summary.

    http://everything2.com/index.pl?node=Move

    I had forgotten that they were such close cousins of the libertarian fringe.

  33. Let me add my voice to the list of those who were pretty lefty during college but never got the fascination with Mumia. As Jesse says, there are SO MANY better examples of guys who got railroaded.

  34. I *am* a lefty, and even I never got why my friends took up this guy’s cause.

  35. We believe in Natural Law, the government of self. Man-made laws are not really laws, because they don’t apply equally to everyone and they contain exceptions and loopholes. Man-made laws are constantly being amended or repealed. Natural Law stays the same and always has. Man’s laws require police, sheriffs, armies, and courts to enforce them, and lawyers to explain them. True law is self explanatory and self enforcing.

  36. John Africa, radical libertarian.

    Without the blue skin.

  37. Does anyone know about the circumstances under which this cop was shot? The linked articles don’t go into that, and I live in a cave.

    “On December 9, 1981, around 3:51 a.m., Philadelphia Police Department officer Daniel Faulkner was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop of a vehicle driven by William Cook, Abu-Jamal’s younger brother. In the altercation Abu-Jamal was also shot and wounded. Officers arriving at the scene found a .38 caliber revolver, that belonged to Abu-Jamal, beside him. The cylinder of the revolver had five spent cartridges. He was taken directly from the scene of the shooting to hospital and was treated for his injury. He was charged with the first-degree murder of Daniel Faulkner”

    From here

    When I first heard about the case, I took a closer look at it because some of the witnesses involves seemed potentially flaky, but the forensic evidence made it pretty clear he was guilty.

  38. I wore a “Free Mumia” pin at some point during my adolescence mostly to be anti – anti death penalty, anti police brutality, anti authority, anti establishment. I recall that I didn’t keep it on long, because I did not like what it implied I was pro. I also didn’t like the people it appeared to put me in league with. I was already in league with them enough for various other reasons. Still never felt that everything was on the level on either side in his case.

  39. Neu Mejican

    It’s hard to imagine a guy who was given more due process. Throughout the trial, the Judge did his best to indulge this guys’ many ramblings, often being forced to remove the jury from the courtroom several times. He’s had numerous appeals by skilled lawyers. Several eye witnesses identified him as the shooter, and a black woman testified that she heard him clearly confess.

    He didn’t “probably” murder Dan Faulkner (or more precisely, blew his head off), rather he is 100% absolutely postively guilty. OJ’s defense is an order of magnitude more credible than this guy’s.

  40. I think some of the reasons suggested for the left’s fascination with Mumia are good but I would offer another one. That reason is the subtle racism of the left. While certainly being “against racism” however that is defined, the left suffers from their own brand of it.

    They are much more likely to beleive that a man who is articulate and a good writer like Mumia has been falsely accused. The reason is that he sounds a lot like most of the people they interact with. They can relate to him.

    They can’t relate to a Cory Maye who shot someone defending his home because they don’t own a gun and have problems with the very concept of defending one’s home.

  41. Daniel,

    Whatever dude.
    I wasn’t there in 1981 and I wasn’t in the jury box, so I’ll go with “probably.”

  42. because they don’t own a gun and have problems with the very concept of defending one’s home.

    WTF?

    Do people really believe such caricatures?

  43. The lefty in Mike X’s head.

    “Hello Mr. Home invader, can I show you to some of our finer possessions?

    “What? Oh, that’s my daughter, she’s quite attractive isn’t she?”

    “Why of course, help yourself, she is of an age where she needs to learn about such things anyway, might as well be from you.”

  44. Interestingly, Mumia has never offered his own explanation of the events of that morning.
    I’ve had his supporters tell me that Officer Faulkner “obviously” was using racial epithets, that is was an illegal traffic stop, and that Mumia was defending his brother, but that some unknown third party did the killing with Mumia’s gun. Fry the bastard and let God sort it out.

  45. Creech,

    Mumia’s brother would not agree with the “defending his brother” statement.

    http://www.freemumia.com/cookdeclaration.html

  46. Do people really believe such caricatures?

    Absolutely.

  47. And you wonder why we’re “with the terrorists.”

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get a latte and not go to work.

    But first, a little acid and anal sex.

  48. I was quickly surrounded by about a dozen or so foaming-at-the-mouth types

    A perfect time to have busted out these mad skills, Ponyboy.

  49. What most of you do not realize is that the fundamental aspects of the trial itself was flawed. From having a judge that did not hear the trial fairly to the multiple fabricated confessions, one of which was presented at trial, and extending to the ballistic evidence which identified the weapon that mumia supposedly used as two different calibers. At the point where you have these questions and so much more there can be no question as to the fairness of the trial. The difficulty with the american legal system is that when you have a judge such as Sabo it is almost impossible for a meaningful trial to be conducted. Furthermore due to the nature of appeals, which for years had to go through Sabo, much evidence was never given a fair hearing, as it was not available at trial or not provided to the defense. When reviewing the case on appeal all of the evidence had to go through Sabo, whose one sided and biased reading of the evidence prejudices all legal proceedings that have continued to this day.

  50. But first, a little acid and anal sex.

    Suit yourself, but I’d go with lube instead.

  51. Mumia gets the attention he does because he is eloquent and charismatic.

    See: he has the right haircut and politics.

  52. See: he has the right haircut and politics.

    See the John Africa quote above…

    Wouldn’t his politics make him more of a darling around here than among those big government, authority loving, collectivist, non-believing-in-self-defense lefty hippies who have anal sex with acid lube?

  53. “If the Free Mumia movement has an unintended benefit, it’s that it immediately allows one to identify those whose political views should be ignored.”

    Oh man, that was the best thing I’ve read in a long time.

    I’d be the first person to put the needle in Mumia’s arm.

  54. Multiple fabricated confessions? That’s an interesting one. Oh and Sabo has been dead for quite some time now so I think they can avoid his supposed tainting of the process. And what exactly is all that evidence that was not given a fair hearing? The two different caliber noise has been debunked btw. The coroner looked at what was left of the slug and in a quick note-to-self jotted down “44 cal” upon first glance. Mumia acting as his own attorney used his strikes against several qualified black potential jurors and then proceeded to turn the courtroom into a sideshow, engaging in juvenile political tantrums throughout the entire trial. Had he acted like an adult he might have gotten a “more fair (?)” trial.
    I remember when this happened, as a kid living in Philly. It was one of the most open-and-shut cases anyone had seen. Wesley aka Mumia becoming this lefty icon has been a source of frustration, anger, amusement, puzzlement, and eye rolling for Philadelphians for quite some time.
    I don’t believe in the death penalty, and for him if they were to once and for all just give him life it might do some good by way of shutting the fuck up some of the most annoying, obnoxious, cultist pseudo-dissident losers on the planet. Maybe then they can find a more deserving poster child.

  55. The article in the American Lawyer Jesse refers to is by Stuart Taylor. It’s called “Mumia Abu-Jamal Guilty *and* Framed”

    http://www.courttv.com/archive/casefiles/mumia/guilty.html

    A pretty strong indictment both of Mumia himself and of his trial.

  56. Wesley Cook, a.k.a. Mumia Abu-Jamal, is a cop-killing, death-penalty-avoiding gay man… not that there’s anything wrong with that!!

  57. Wouldn’t his politics make him more of a darling around here than among those big government, authority loving, collectivist, non-believing-in-self-defense lefty hippies who have anal sex with acid lube?

    No. His politics and his followers are of the “cooperative economics” (ujaama) stripe.

    And you and joe have something horribly confused. Anal sex with acid lube is the purview of Republican bathroom behavior.

    David T.

    “Mumia Abu-Jamal Guilty *and* Framed”

    They said this with O.J., too. And I’m not sure I buy it. It seems to me that it’s a way of having one’s cake and eating it too.

    Cake: Ok, ok, Mumia’s guilty.
    Eating it: He’s still a victim of pervasive white institutional racism.

    It’s two points on a plot-line that merely proliferate the political theater.

  58. Paul,

    You take me too seriously.

    John Africa was a loon.

    He, however, uses some of the exact same logic to support certain aspects of his lunacy as many libertarians.

    This is, of course, true of all anarchistic movements.

    That’s why communists and libertarians are such mortal enemies. They are both anarchist-lite, but disagree on a parameter or two of how to implement.

  59. I never got the left’s fascination with Mumia.

    Like Che, he’s got a catchy, exotic-sounding name.

  60. Do people really believe such caricatures?

    Well, it doesn’t help that we hear stories from England about being charged with murder for self-defense in their homes. And that we have lots of people in this country who believe that the “castle doctrine” should be revoked and you should be required to retreat from your home rather than defend it.

  61. Like Che, he’s got a catchy, exotic-sounding name.

    “Wesley Cook” is catchy and exotic-sounding?

  62. because they don’t own a gun and have problems with the very concept of defending one’s home.

    WTF?

    Do people really believe such caricatures?

    Were you listening during the recent D.C. v. Heller arguments? That’s precisely the anti-gun position, particularly from the Brady Center and the Violence Policy Center.

    I work in an agency dealing with sexual assault. There are still some in the movement, usually from the Northeast or the Left Coast, who advocate that women should carry condoms so they can ask a rapist to use one instead of fighting back.

    This is a holdover from the “If you fight back, you might get hurt” advice prevalent in the early 1980s. It’s also comparable to the “If a highjacker wants an airplane, give him the airplane” philosophy prior to 9/11.

  63. LarryA, RC Dean,

    I realize that when people believe a ridiculous caricature that they will have a way to rationalize that belief.

    It doesn’t make it any less of a ridiculous caricature.

    Specifically…
    Advice “if you fight back you might get hurt” is not in any way a denial of the right to defend yourself.

    Just as a position that says that deadly force is only justified in the defense of life, not property, does not deny the right to defend property.

    But you know that.

  64. http://www.heraldsun.com/state/6-937904.cfm

    Report: Easley press office ordered e-mails deleted
    Mar 29, 2008

    RALEIGH, N.C. — State government public information officers were instructed by Gov. Mike Easley’s press office to delete e-mails to and from the governor’s office, according to notes released Saturday by the governor’s office.

    The News & Observer of Raleigh reported Saturday that Andrew A. Vanore Jr., a lawyer who works for Easley, produced notes made by two public information officers. The notes showed that they and others were told at a meeting on May 29, 2007, to destroy e-mails. A third public information officer said he also recalled those instructions.

    But Vanore said the notes don’t mean what they say. He also said the instructions were not followed.

    Easley’s chief legal counsel, Reuben F. Young, has been vacationing with his family in China and could not be reached for comment. Deputy press secretary Seth Effron has been instructed by Vanore not to comment.

    Questions about the way the Easley administration handles e-mails arose after publication of an N&O series, “Mental Disorder: The Failure of Reform.” The series reported on an ill-conceived and poorly executed mental health reform plan on which the state has wasted at least $400 million.

    Two days after the series ended, Easley ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to fire its public information officer, Debbie Crane. Later that day, Crane told The N&O that the governor’s press office had directed that e-mails be deleted to bypass the state’s public records law.

    Young and Effron quickly denied that such instructions had been given.

    Julia Jarema, public information officer at the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, recorded this note for the meeting in question: “Public records request — increasing careful of email delete emails to/from gov. office every day.”

    Diana Kees, public information officer at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, recorded this note: “emails – more & more public records requests (blogs?) be careful w/emails; delete emails to and from gov office every day.”

    Vanore said he did not know what the notes meant.

    “It could be interpreted a number of different ways, and the only way to properly interpret it would be to talk to the individual who took the note,” he said. But he said he had instructed all of the employees not to talk about that issue because the newspaper may file a lawsuit.

    Vanore said the e-mail messages to and from the governor’s press office were clear and irrefutable proof that there was no systematic intent to destroy e-mail.

    Hugh Stevens, an attorney who represents The N&O, said the notes made by Jarema and Kees confirmed Crane’s allegation.

    “This sounds to me as though there was a concerted and willful attempt to evade the public records law by deleting the e-mails,” he said. “I don’t see how you can interpret it any other way.”

    Guess whose e-mails were deleted? OURS! I have had numerous people write to both Easley, and the Sheriff, for our case, and after being “blacklisted” from the county website and willingly negligent, here is more PROOF of the deliberate abuse of powers in public offices to purposely deny the public RIGHTS, and to perform MORE illegal and unconstitutional tactics to prevent being “OUTED!”

    WE DEMAND JUSTICE NOW!

    Rhonda Fleming
    Durham SURVIVOR!
    Justice4all2005@yahoo.com

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.