Mumia Abu-Jamal, Former Black Panther, Escapes Death Penalty

Mumia Abu-Jamal, the former Black Panther found guilty of shooting Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, has escaped the death penalty after prosecutors brought an end to their 30-year push to see Abu-Jamal executed.

The 58-year-old convicted cop-killer will now spend the rest of his life in prison.

The former Black Panther has always argued he is the victim of a racist legal system. He persistently challenged the predominantly white jury who oversaw his trial and the accounts of eyewitnesses. He accused the judge in his case of being racist.

Abu-Jamal’s writings and radio broadcasts from death row brought his case into the international spotlight, and he became a cause celebre for many who opposed capital punishment. A former journalist, his 1995 book Live From Death Row portrays prison life and alleges the justice system is institutionally racist.

Now, his fight against state execution is over. On Wednesday, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced the bid for Abu-Jamal’s execution was finished, just two days short of the 30th anniversary of Officer Faulkner’s murder. Williams was joined at the announcement by Faulkner’s widow Maureen, who gave her blessing to the decision. He said:

“There’s never been any doubt in my mind that Mumia Abu-Jamal shot and killed Officer Faulkner. I believe that the appropriate sentence was handed down by a jury of his peers in 1982. While Abu-Jamal will no longer be facing the death penalty, he will remain behind bars for the rest of his life, and that is where he belongs.”

Abu-Jamal was sentenced to death in 1982, yet a federal appeals court ordered a new sentencing after it heard instructions given to the jury in the original trial were potentially misleading.

According to trial testimony, Abu-Jamal saw his brother scuffle with patrolman Faulkner during a traffic stop in 1981. Abu-Jamal approached the scene, and was later found by police wounded by a round from Faulkner’s gun. Faulkner had been shot several times and was killed.