Ex-Panther says Racism put him on Death Row

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WASHINGTON—Mumia Abu-Jama, formerly known as Wesley Cook, is perhaps the most recognized of the 228 condemned inmates on Pennsylvania’s death row at the Greene Correctional Facility.

The former Black Panther was sentenced to death after gunning down a police officer 28 years ago on December 9, 1981. Officer Daniel Faulkner, 25, had pulled over Abu-Jamal’s brother in a late-night traffic stop when, witnesses say, Abu-Jamal ran over and shot the police officer in the back of the head, killing him.

Abu-Jamal later admitted to the killing and was also wounded in the confrontation.

Abu-Jamal’s case has attracted international attention, especially since lawyers filed a separate appeal claiming that racism led to his 1982 conviction. The petition is scheduled for consideration by the Supreme Court on April 3. Abu-Jamal has many supporters who argue that racism pervaded his trial.

Incarcerated for almost three decades, Abu-Jamal has been an active critic of the criminal justice system and has a new book, entitled “Jailhouse Lawyers,” being released next month. He wrote to supporters last month, claiming that the central issue in his conviction was racism in the jury selection.

Ten whites and two blacks made up the original jury panel that sentenced him to death.

The Supreme Court will determine whether or not Mumia will have a new jury trial. If the Supreme Court refuses to hear a new jury trial, then the city’s prosecutor will have to decide within a six-month timeline whether Mumia will face execution or spend the rest of his life in prison.

Many groups and individuals, including singer Harry Belafonte, the NAACP and the European Parliament, are cited on Mumia’s Web site as supporters. Nelson Mandela, among other prominent supporters, say that Faulkner was killed with a different type of handgun from the one Mumia was legally carrying while working as a taxi-driver—a fact they say was not communicated to the jury.

Philadelphia District Attorney believes this trial has been made into a circus by those who falsely believe that Abu-Jamal is some sort of folk hero, claiming that instead he is nothing short of an assassin.

Faulkner’s widow, Maureen Faulkner, wrote a book two years ago trying to lay out the case against Mumia Abu-Jamal and those who have elevated him to the status of a political prisoner.

 

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