Abu-Jamal hearing opens old wounds


PHILADELPHIA — Thirty years after her patrolman husband was killed in a traffic stop, Maureen Faulkner agreed to a 2011 deal that lifted the convicted killer’s death sentence in hopes it would end his appeals and let his death row celebrity fade.

Now, with the case revived again, she fears there’s no finality in the criminal justice system. And the city of Philadelphia is poised to revisit one of its most contentious murder cases: the 1981 slaying of 25-year-old white police Officer Daniel Faulkner and the chaotic trial of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the ex-Black Panther and radio journalist convicted of gunning him down.

“It’s not fair that I have to do this, just to be slapped in the face constantly with this case, over and over and over again,” Maureen Faulkner, 62, told The Associated Press this week. “I’m in a mental prison.”

Abu-Jamal, 65, gained fame through his prison writings and recordings on race and the criminal justice system. He had seemingly reached the end of his appeals once the city dropped the death sentence in 2011 over allegedly misleading jury instructions. The “Free Mumia” rallies, anti-death penalty protests and Hollywood support died down.

However, a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision in a related case, the 2017 election of reformist Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, and the surprise discovery late last year of six lost boxes of prosecution files breathed new life into the case.

Together, they could be enough to win him a new trial.

Abu-Jamal is now pursuing his fifth post-conviction review in Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas, based on notes in the unearthed files that the defense says suggests prosecutors promised money to one eyewitness, helped another with her prostitution case and made notes about the race of prospective jurors.

“The fact that we have now seen new pieces of evidence that should have been disclosed years and years ago is certainly not the fault of anyone on the defense side,” said Judith Ritter, a Delaware Law School professor who has steered Abu-Jamal’s defense in recent years. “I don’t know there are too many people who would say that finality is more important than preventing wrongful or unconstitutionally attained convictions.”