When District Attorney Seth Williams learned yesterday that a federal appeals court ordered a new sentencing hearing for convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, he called the widow of slain police Officer Daniel Faulkner.
Maureen Faulkner “was devastated, crying as she spoke. She’s been a victim since 1981,” said Williams, adding that he wanted to be the first to share the news but she’d already heard. He wanted to find out how she wanted prosecutors to proceed.
Saying that guilt-or-innocence wasn’t up for legal debate, they could keep Abu-Jamal imprisoned for the rest of his life, request a new sentencing hearing for a jury to decide between a life sentence or the death penalty, or appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Williams said his office will pursue the latter, a process extending the case several years.
“Mrs. Faulkner was very clear. She wants to [pursue the death penalty]. She said she’ll still be there to see justice served,” Williams said. “She said, ‘if the court doesn’t believe there should be a death penalty, they should just say that’” rather than keeping the case alive with various rulings.
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 President John McNesby said, “It’s disgusting to say the least. Not only do we have to watch our backs on the street. Now, we have to watch ourselves from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.”
NAACP backs new hearing
In an NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. press release, Abu-Jamal attorney Judith Ritter stated, “Pennsylvania long ago abandoned the confusing and misleading instructions and verdict slip that were relied on in Mr. Abu-Jamal’s trial in order to prevent unfair and unjust death sentences. Mr. Abu-Jamal is entitled to no less constitutional protection.”
Williams noted that the instructions and verdict slip were valid at the time of trial.