Thirty-seven years later, Maureen Faulkner, 61, is still carrying the loss of her Philly cop husband, Officer Daniel Faulkner, who was shot to death at age 25 in 1981 at 13th and Locust streets after a traffic stop. Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted of Faulkner's murder and is currently serving life without parole, but details surrounding the case have made Abu-Jamal one of the most internationally known U.S. inmates and led to ongoing support for his release.
As Abu-Jamal's legal team prepares for a hearing Monday to ask the courts to review all of his unsuccessful appeals from the past 20 years, with his supporters planning to pack the courtroom, Maureen Faulkner herself will be there, along with cop supporters, to stand for Daniel Faulkner and demand that reform-minded new DA Larry Krasner fight against any bid for freedom by Abu-Jamal.
"If I have to go back through these appeals, it will just be very damaging to me and my family," Faulkner told Metro. "To this day, he has not admitted guilt, and you know why? Because he doesn’t think it's a crime to kill a cop."
Faulkner and supporters of her late husband are expected to attend Abu-Jamal's hearing on Monday. So are the many supporters of Abu-Jamal, who have created a Facebook event asking supporters to "pack the court to free Mumia," whose health, they say, is in increasingly dire condition, due to cirrhosis of the liver and Hepatitis C.
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"Cops and their supporters are worried that the current political climate against police terror and mass incarceration is so strong that it could even be felt in the courts, where a legal opportunity now exists that could result in Abu-Jamal’s release," pro-Mumia organizers wrote.
Faulkner said she came back to Philly to send a message to new Philly DA Larry Krasner and ask him "to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Faulkner family, as so many district attorneys have before, and oppose any efforts by Abu-Jamal and his attorneys to free a clearly guilty and properly convicted cop killer," she wrote in an op-ed published by the Inquirer, and she acknowledged that "given the current political environment, my family and I have grave concerns about how the judge might rule."
Krasner swept into office on promises of reform, which he has so far been delivering to mixed reviews, but Faulkner said she wants to make sure he's dedicated to keeping Abu-Jamal locked up.
"I understand that Larry Krasner's been a defense attorney and civil rights attorney and Black Lives Matter attorney and that's what he did for 30 years of his life, but now that he is in the District Attorney’s Office, he has to have a different mindset," Faulkner said. "There's nothing I hope for more than for the police department and the District Attorney’s Office to walk on some sort of common ground, because if they don’t do that, the city is going to collapse."
Abu-Jamal will be in court on Monday for a hearing regarding an appeal filed alleging judicial bias. Abu-Jamal's lawyers said state Supreme Court Judge Ronald Castille acted inappropriately by sitting on a panel hearing one of Abu-Jamal's appeals of his conviction — which he rejected — although he had previously fought Abu-Jamal's appeals as then-Philadelphia district attorney. Former Gov. Ed Rendell was Philly DA in 1982 when Abu-Jamal was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death, which was commuted in 2011 to life without parole.
But in 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court found in the case of Terrance Williams vs. Pennsylvania, which Castille also both prosecuted and later heard as a judge, that such action was unconstitutional. If a judge rules that one of Abu-Jamal's appeals was handled unconstitutionally, it could lead to a review of every legal step in his case since the mid-'90s, possibly before the current state Supreme Court. But Faulkner says Abu-Jamal should still face the death penalty.
"It was over 37 years ago, there have been more than 20 appeals, let's step back to what really happened on Dec. 9, 1981, when I was 25 years old and got that call in the middle of the night," Faulkner said. "I remember going to the court and seeing the bullets in his jacket. … He was writhing from side to side, and Jamal just went down and shot him between the eyes. It was with malice. It was with deliberation."
Cop killer or political prisoner?
Mumia Abu-Jamal, born Wesley Cook, a former journalist, cab driver and affiliate of MOVE founder John Africa, was arrested and got the death penalty for Faulkner’s murder. Prosecutors said Abu-Jamal ambushed and killed Faulkner during a late-night traffic stop of Abu-Jamal's younger brother, which had turned physical. Abu-Jamal was arrested at the scene next to Faulkner's body with a gunshot wound from Faulkner's gun to the chest and charged with first-degree murder.
In the wake of the 1985 MOVE bombing, and as details of the criminal trial were presented by activists as evidence of a conspiracy, Abu-Jamal was dubbed a "political prisoner" allegedly targeted due to his involvement in black power-related causes. He became an emblem of the flawed criminal justice system, with many in the '90s beginning to call for his release and summoning him to deliver commencement speeches at various colleges, which he did by tape or telephone from prison.
In 2011, with the consent of Faulkner's family, prosecutors dropped their bid to have Abu-Jamal executed, settling instead for life without parole.