Tag: Mumia Abu-Jamal

Don’t Silence Mumia

Last year, the State of Pennsylvania passed the Revictimization Relief Act, a bill designed to allow crime victims to sue if criminals engage in speech that causes them mental anguish. Perhaps the best way to illustrate what the law is about is to look at why it was passed: Mumia Abu-Jamal had given the commencement address at Goddard College. He gave this via videotape because Abu-Jamal is in prison for the murder of Daniel Faulkner. And Faulkner’s family is getting a little tired of seeing his murderer bruited about as some great public intellectual.

Let’s get one thing straight: I think Mumia is guilty as hell. Faulkner was shot by a gun consistent with Mumia’s revolver, which had fired five shots and was found next to him. Mumia was himself shot by Faulkner. Four witnesses placed him at the scene. To believe Mumia is innocent, you have to believe … actually, I’m not sure what you have to believe because the theories of his innocence make no sense and Mumia has not given a consistent account of what happened. Maybe a one-armed man ran in, grabbed Mumia’s gun, shot the cop and left.

The protestations of his innocence revolve around him being an intellectual and a supposedly peaceful man. That’s as maybe but anyone is capable of murder. We don’t convict people of murder because they’re the kind of people who would probably kill someone and we don’t acquit because it’s, like, totally not like them to gun down a cop. I tend to focus my attention on the evidence, which was and is damning.

I also have little time for Mumia’s supporters. It’s not just that they lavish praise and support on him (and, in some cases abuse on Faulkner’s widow and accusations of corruption against Faulkner). It’s that they do so while ignoring the hundreds of innocent people who have languished in prison and on death row for decades but aren’t celebrities.

That all having been said, the Pennsylvania law crosses me as blatantly unconstitutional. And it was struck down by a federal court this week. Volokh and Randazza have a breakdown of the decision. Bottom line:

First Amendment protection extends to convicted felons. The Act is in violation of the First Amendment as it is content based, overbroad, and vague in its coverage of “offenders” and speech “conduct.” Victims have other forms of redress and can use their own free speech to combat that of inmates.

Call Mumia a murderer. I’ll do that right now: he’s a murderer. Call the school that invited him to do their commencement idiots. I’ll do that, too: they’re idiots. But restraint of his speech and those who want to promote his speech is wrong and unconstitutional. As we like to say, it’s the speech you hate that needs the most protection.

Long Live Mumia

Hollywood’s favorite cop killer got some closure in his life and avoided that long walk to the gallows:

Prosecutors on Wednesday abandoned their 30-year pursuit of the execution of convicted police killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, the former Black Panther whose claim that he was the victim of a racist legal system made him an international cause celebre.

Abu-Jamal, 58, will instead spend the rest of his life in prison. His writings and radio broadcasts from death row had put him at the center of an international debate over capital punishment.

Flanked by Officer Daniel Faulkner’s widow, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced his decision two days short of the 30th anniversary of the white policeman’s killing.

Not only am I fine with this decision, I think it was long overdue.

We have talked about the death penalty before. I would consider myself a reluctant advocate of the death penalty. An advocate in that the people should decide what society they want to live in and they have decided (along with judicial permission, of course) that they consider the death penalty appropriate for certain crimes. And you can not argue the fact that when applied it does a pretty good job of making sure that the murderer does not murder again. The problem that we have, and why I use the word “reluctant” is that proper retribution is only served when it is meted out in a timely manner. The system we have in place removes any possibility of that. Yes, it is necessary to protect society from criminals, but protection is only one aspect of doing time, a toll must be extracted, so punishment goes hand in hand with protection.

But not only is the appeals process costly, and in an era of austerity costs must be weighed in almost all governmental decisions, but the decades it takes for it to run it’s course removes any chances at all that the victims or the victims families can have for closure and causes them even more pain by dragging them along through the process as well. At this point I have reached an attitude where the law is useless (worse then useless in that it inflicts more emotional pain to those involved) and would not mind abolishing capital punishment. Life without the possibility of parole can meet the definition and intent of retribution.

Williams said he reached the decision with the blessing of Faulkner’s widow, Maureen.
“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,” she said Wednesday. “All of this has taken an unimaginable physical, emotional and financial toll on each of us.”

Totally understandable. After 30 years, it was time to make a decision, and knowing that Mumia will never see the light of day will provide some finality to the widow, closure that the entire process never afforded her.

For my own self, I would prefer capital offenders to spend their days making little rocks out of big rocks, making license plates, or doing something that earns their keep and mitigates the cost of their upkeep. But the rest of your life behind bars is a fair price and worthy of the word “justice” when you take the life of another.

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