Mumia Abu-Jamal Freed: How Death Row Crawled to an Exciting Non-Victory

Please don’t get me confused, as I am very excited that Mumia Abu-Jamal has now been taken off of death row. He will now spend the rest of his life in prison, without the possibility of parole, for the 1981 killing of a Phildelphia Officer.

The former Black Panther member was convicted of gunning down white police Officer Daniel Faulkner during a shoot out that left the officer dead and Mumia shot with his own pistol after a scuffle broke out between Mumia’s brother and Officer Faulkner over 30 years ago.

After decades of  long, and ardent legal battles that included the continued efforts of human rights organizations, benefit concerts and international support on behalf of Mumia’s accusations of his conviction at the hands of a racist criminal justice system, the journalist and scholar who penned the book, Live From the Death Row, has come out a victor. His reward is his life.

Abu-Jamal was originally sentenced to death. His murder conviction was upheld through years of appeals. But in 2008, a federal appeals court ordered a new sentencing hearing on the grounds that the instructions given to the jury were potentially misleading.

After the U.S. Supreme Court declined to weigh in two months ago, prosecutors were forced to decide whether to pursue the death penalty again or accept a life sentence without parole.

The state could have chosen to continue on with a new sentencing hearing against Mumia (which may have overturned or reduced his conviction?) or to accept the offer of a conviction of a life sentence without parole.

They chose to accept the offer which is their only guaranteed way of keeping him behind bars.

I am also going to suggest that the state began to realize the court’s findings of their inefficiency could open a Pandora’s Box of further investigation to their legal practices.

Where there’s smoke, there is fire, especially when that smoke is of a charcoal colored hue.

“There is no question that justice is served when a death sentence from a misinformed jury is overturned,” Ritter said. “Thirty years later, the district attorney’s decision not to seek a new death sentence also furthers the interests of justice.”

According to trial testimony, Abu-Jamal saw his brother scuffle with the patrolman during a 4 a.m. traffic stop in 1981 and ran toward the scene. Police found Abu-Jamal wounded by a round from Faulkner’s gun. Faulkner, shot several times, was killed. A .38-caliber revolver registered to Abu-Jamal was found at the scene with five spent shell casings.

Further details of the actual trial and legal points can be found online here. The conviction was upheld but the sentencing was vacated due to the issue of the jury being given misleading instructions.

The instructors were not found to clearly imply that the jury was allowed to take MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES into consideration while determining a conviction during the Mumia case.

Over the years, Abu-Jamal challenged the predominantly white makeup of the jury, the instructions given to the jurors and the accounts of eyewitnesses. He also complained that his lawyer was ineffective, that the judge was racist and that another man confessed to the crime.

And of course, as with any issue involving crime and punishment, there is always the victim’s family to take into consideration.

There are instances where these families do feel empathy for all involved in the situation of the circumstances at hand, but this isn’t one of them.

“Where do Maureen and the Faulkner family go for a reduction in their sentence?” Costello said. “For 30 years now, they have been forced to suffer grief, anguish, abuse, insults, intimidation, threats and every other sort of indignity that can be visited on a family already in grief.”

“My family and I have endured a three-decade ordeal at the hands of Mumia Abu-Jamal, his attorneys and his supporters, who in many cases never even took the time to educate themselves about the case before lending their names, giving their support and advocating for his freedom,” Maureen Faulkner said. “All of this has taken an unimaginable physical, emotional and financial toll on each of us.”

The wife of Officer Faulkner is now working towards having Mumia put back into the general prison population. She is going to make it a point to see that he is no longer ‘coddled and receiving special treatment as he has all these years’.

The “special treatment” Mrs. Faulkner is refering to is Mumia’s time spent taking advantage of the legal systems in order to fight for his life. She considers him ‘coddled’ because someone, somewhere gave a fuck about his life.

Though I do realize that she and her family are victims, I can’t help but to notice that her concern is not for the life of what may or may not have been an innocent man; she seeks blood as punishment for her husband’s death, regardless of who caused it.

This type of attitude is what has allowed our broken criminal justice system to withstand the tests of time.

Because as long as privileged people feel blindly owed retribution, innocent people will always stand a chance of losing their lives to satisfy that blood lust. Justice, facts and the honest pursuit of truth is a luxury not afforded to those “deemed” criminals.

As long as non-privilege Black/poor/other people allow themselves to be used by the Whites ruling class to satisfy their blood lust and twisted sense of pleasure these people will continue to feed on them.

Mumia’s defense work is a victory but I know he’s only one of many, many possibly innocent and victimized people that serve as an inmate slave population in America’s jails.

So am I happy Mumia got some of what he wanted? Surly.

I did not have the pleasure of communicating with Mumia during my time at the prisoner’s legal aid society during my time volunteering there. I do, however, understand what he was fighting against and the conditions in which these people must live.

Our justice system is an abomination. I hope he does not go silent and I hope we do not allow ourselves to go silent.

Is this a victory….?

I don’t know. If it’s just as easy for an innocent person to be hit with bogus charges by aggressive police officers, then no.

If it takes a million dollar bank account to purchase freedom through high priced attorneys, and connections, then no.

If it takes 30 years and the encouragement of people on every continent on the planet to compel our legal system to allow a victim of circumstantial evidence the chance to challenge his own conviction, then no.

As long as innocent people rot away in a prison cell at the expense of your tax dollars, then no.

Mumia is a unique man with a unique and historical set of circumstances that may have contributed to allowing his life be spared, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t more lives on Death Row worth saving.