Call this one a wash. Left-wing cause celebre Mumia Abu-Jamal won his appeal for the sentence on his murder conviction, but a federal appellate court upheld the conviction itself for the murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. He either has to have a new sentencing hearing or have his sentence downgraded automatically to life:
In a major victory for world-famous death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, a federal appeals court today refused to reinstate his death sentence for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Abu-Jamal must be sentenced to life in prison or get a chance with a new Philadelphia jury, which would decide anew whether he should get life in prison or be sentenced – again – to death.
At the same time, the judges upheld his first-degree murder conviction, rejecting Abu-Jamal’s claim that he deserves an entirely new trial and a chance to prove his innocence.
Mumia’s case has been adopted by those who oppose the death penalty as a concept, and they have done what they normally do: turn the criminal into an ersatz martyr. The same thing happened with Stanley “Tookie” Williams in California, who murdered an entire family. Instead of just arguing against the death penalty, activists go too far and try to convince people that Mumia and other murderers are actual innocents, or murdered because life was unfair to them, or any rationalization that will get the case on the front pages.
The court makes the better distinction in this case by separating the conviction from the sentence and reaffirming Mumia’s guilt. The state will almost certainly appeal this to the Supreme Court, and Mumia will probably also appeal his conviction, too, as Michelle notes. Afterwards, Pennsylvania will have the opportunity to present a death-penalty argument to a new jury, and if it holds up, Mumia will get another death sentence.
Maybe they should consider letting Mumia rot. I’m not a fan of the death penalty, but one application where it makes sense is when someone murders a police officer, especially for no particular reason. That act strikes at the heart of the community and constitutes an attack on civilization, and if the penalty got applied equally in all such situations, I could support it. In this case, though, it just keeps Mumia in the news, which is exactly what he wants. If he got a life sentence with no possibility of parole, his celebrity friends would soon lose interest and leave him to die, forgotten, in the Pennsylvania penal system.
Maureen Faulkner has a different opinion, and a fascinating book on the murder of her husband, Murdered by Mumia. In it, Maureen discusses her own life sentence of pain and loss, and reviews the overwhelming case that put Mumia on Death Row. I’d recommend it to everyone. I also interviewed Mrs. Faulkner when the book hit the market, which you can hear at this link.
A US federal appeals court on Thursday overturned the death sentence passed against human rights campaigner Mumia Abu-Jamal, while upholding his conviction for the murder of a police officer.
Human-rights campaigner? How about “murderer”? He’s been an activist, all right …. on his own behalf. Ugh.
Update II: Shaun Mullen, who had been a journalist in Philly and knew Mumia before the murder, has a recap that’s well worth reading. In the same podcast as I linked above, I interviewed Shaun about the case, so be sure to listen to the entire show.