The flouting of justice degrades those who do it as well those who stand by and witness it. Which is why the America that woke up this morning must consider itself a little dirtier than it was yesterday before Philadelphia’s District Attorney Seth Williams announced that he had given up on the city’s efforts to execute convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. The press conference came just two days before the 30th anniversary of Abu-Jamal’s cold-blooded murder of Officer Daniel Faulkner.
Abu-Jamal has spent the intervening three decades promoting himself as a martyr to American racism. He became a cause célèbre and a hero to European critics of America and naive college students and other leftists willing to believe any lie so long as it was based in an allegation of white prejudice. Though his guilt in the murder of Faulkner was proved time and again, liberal activists and an army of lawyers working on Abu-Jamal’s behalf managed to run out the clock on efforts to enforce the death sentence the killer deserved. After judges who Faulkner’s widow rightly described as “dishonest cowards” ordered a new sentencing hearing this year on the bogus grounds that jurors received misleading instructions in 1982, the DA felt he had no choice but to give up and allow Abu-Jamal to spend the rest of his life in prison with no chance of parole. The liars who smeared Faulkner and bought into the myths about the case have won.
The facts of the case were not complicated. On Dec. 9, 1981, Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner was murdered in cold blood. The shooting came after Faulkner pulled over a car driven by Abu-Jamal’s brother for driving the wrong way on a one-way street. Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther and sometime radio personality who was tangentially involved with the radical MOVE group that also involved violence, shot the officer in the back and then plugged him four more times, though not before Faulkner got off a shot that wounded his assailant. All five bullets were from the gun Abu-Jamal was carrying in a shoulder holster. Abu-Jamal was found at the site, and though he claimed someone else had killed Faulkner, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.
Abu-Jamal and his supporters have claimed his trial was tainted by racism. These charges were palpably false and were largely the result of Abu-Jamal’s efforts to disrupt the proceedings. But over the years the myths about his conviction were given sufficient support by activists and liberal media such as the Yale Law Journal and National Public Radio and Pacifica Radio. The truth was often drowned out.
Abu-Jamal has turned out to be a symbol–but not of his so-called “resistance” to the death penalty or as a supposed victim of American racism. Instead, he is a symbol of how our system of justice can be hijacked by a movement that was dedicated to obstructing justice in the name of leftist ideology. His case also shows that although most Americans — even in Pennsylvania — believe the death penalty is appropriate in a case such as that of the murder of Officer Faulkner–it can be put off indefinitely if liberal judges are willing to thwart it by the flimsiest of legal arguments.
It is some consolation that Abu-Jamal will never be released. But as someone who richly deserved to be executed for his crime and who has spent the last 30 years encouraging others to lie on his behalf, his cheating of death is a bitter defeat for the cause of justice.