It was one of the controversial cases in Pennsylvania history. In 1982, former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted of murdering police officer Daniel Faulkner. Since his incarceration, advocates of Abu-Jamal have maintained that prosecutors and authorities were racially motivated in convicting Mumia 37 years ago. Ronald Castille was one of the prosecutors arguing that Abu-Jamal should remain imprisoned despite attorneys calling for a retrial.
Castille was later called by supporters to recuse himself from presiding over a decision to retry the case while serving on the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court. No such recusal occurred. In 2011 Mumia Abu-Jamal was spared the death penalty but denied his right to a new trial with Castille being a key decision-maker.
Now, according to NPR, that decision has been overturned and Mumia Abu-Jamal could receive a new trial in the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner. Abu-Jamal’s former attorney Rachel Wolkenstein called the decision “an unheard of legal victory” and “the best opportunity we have had for Mumia’s freedom in decades.” Judge Leon Tucker wrote in his decision that Castille’s decision not to recuse himself in the decision for a retrial played a major role in his decision to reinstate Mumia’s appeal rights.
“The claim of bias, prejudice and refusal of former Justice Castille to recuse himself is worthy of consideration as true justice must be completely just without even a hint of partiality, lack of integrity or impropriety.”
The decision has been met with both anger and praise.
A HUGE WIN towards Mumia’s freedom!!https://t.co/CpwPWcNcPF
— Bring Mumia Home (@BringMumiaHome) December 28, 2018
The wife of the late Daniel Faulkner, Maureen Faulkner, is speaking out against the decision. She says the legal system has kept her and the Faulkner family in a prison of their own for the last 37 years in not letting the case rest. Faulkner believes Abu-Jamal was justly imprisoned and believes in the principle of “an eye for an eye” in regard to whether or not he should have received the death penalty.
“Does it affect me physically? It does. Am I sick to my stomach? Absolutely. I feel like going and throwing up. Jamal may be confined to a prison, but we are in a prison in our own mind, because we never know when we’re going to get telephone calls saying something like we heard last night.
Despite the testimony of three eyewitnesses in Mumia Abu-Jamal’s murder trial, Judge Leon Tucker concluded that “if a judge served as prosecutor… there is a finding of automatic bias and a due process violation.”
Defense attorneys for Mumia Abu-Jamal have one month from the court decision to inform the courts of their decision to move forward with an appeal.
Mumia Abu-Jamal is 64-years-old.