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Two Mumia Abu Jamal Documentaries Put Officer Faulkner's Killer Back In Spotlight

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Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted for the December 9, 1981, murder of Officer Daniel Faulkner, 25, in Philadelphia, close to the intersection of 13th and Locust Streets. free mumiaFaulkner had pulled over Abu-Jamal's brother in a late-night traffic stop. Witnesses said Abu-Jamal, who was nearby, ran over and shot the policeman in the back and in the head.

Abu-Jamal, once known as Wesley Cook, was wounded in the encounter and later confessed to the killing, according to other witness testimony.

Incarcerated for nearly three decades, Abu-Jamal has been an active critic of the criminal justice system.

On a Web site created by friends last year to promote the release of Abu-Jamal's latest book, "Jailhouse Lawyers" he wrote: "This is the story of law learned, not in the ivory towers of multibillion-dollar endowed universities but in the bowels of the slave ship, in the hidden, dank dungeons of America."

Abu-Jamal has argued in numerous appeals that racism by the trial judge and prosecutors corrupted his 1982 conviction at the hands of a mostly white jury. Those appeals have so far failed.

He has become a cause célèbre among opponents of the death penalty. He was the president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists at the time of his arrest and has continued to write from death row, where he has now spent 28 years.

His trial and subsequent attempts at an appeal have gained international attention and celebrity support including -- Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, The European Parliament, Alice Walker, Paul Newman, Maya Angelou, Sister Helen Prejean, Danny Glover, Rage Against The Machine, the Detroit and San Francisco City Councils, Amnesty International, and many others.

mumia rallyThe case of convicted killer Mumia Abu-Jamal has drawn international attention, including this demonstration in France.

In 2008, after a fierce judicial battle, Abu-Jamal's death sentence was commuted to life in prison over procedural irregularities during his trial. But the state of Pennsylvania appealed the decision and the Supreme Court in January ordered a court of appeals to review the commutation.

This is old news, at least to the residents of Philadelphia who are probably very familiar with this story.  This saga has gained more attention recently as a result of his newest hearing to be held on Nov. 9 and the release of two documentaries with two different views of this case.

Justice on Trial examines the case in the context of police brutality and corruption in Philadelphia, trying to make the case that evidence was tampered with and/or suppressed.

The other film, Barrel of a Gun, directed by Tigre Hill takes a completely different take. Here is the trailer:

After discussing this case with more than a few ex-Philly cops, I can summarize their feelings about this case in a few sentences.

• “He is SO guilty”.

• “Why are we still wasting tax payers money on this guy’s never-ending appeals?

• “Enough is enough”

• “Did you read the transcripts of this case?”

• “Why are we still talking about this guy”?

I certainly concur with their sentiments.

I believe that if this were not a death penalty case, the attention around this case would disappear fast. Much of the animosity felt by the international community is actually generated by their abhorrence of the death penalty, not in belief of Abu-Jamal’s innocence.

Governor Rendell could quickly diffuse this whole circus by commuting Abul-Jamal’s death penalty sentence to a life one; however, Rendell is a pro-cop kind of guy and enjoys the support of the F.O.P. Rendell might also feel morally obligated to see this death sentence carried out. After all, in the film, Barrel of a Gun, Rendell says, “There’s no doubt about it…he executed Faulkner in cold blood.”

Even for a capital case by any standard, the evidence against Abu-Jamal is overwhelming. Four eye witnesses stated that Abu-Jamal was the killer of Officer Faulkner. One witness said that after Faulkner went down, Abu-Jamal stood over him and sealed the deal with a bullet through the head. Three witnesses saw and heard Jamal, when just outside the hospital emergency room, triumphantly shout that he had killed the officer. A gun registered to Abu-Jamal, with five chambers empty, was on the sidewalk where Officer Faulkner lied dead.

To any reasonable person, this is pretty damning evidence.

Abu-Jamal’s defenders refute some of this evidence. For instance, his supporters scream that a .44-caliber bullet was removed from Faulkner’s body but that Abu-Jamal had a .38. In fact, the defense team’s own ballistics expert has debunked that claim.

An entire list of other myths (and their rebuttals) about this case can been seen here.

Look, this case has been tried so many times at the local, state, and even federal level. Is it really plausible that such a racist conspiracy could be actually be perpetuated for over thirty years in spite of a barrage of constant appeals by dozens of highly talented and determined attorneys? Can such corruption be so pervasive in all these different levels in the legal system?

So if you still believe there is a conspiracy to keep an innocent man, Abul-Jamal incarcerated, I’ll show you evidence that 9/11 was an inside job and that President Obama does not really have an American birth certificate.

So freaking guilty…

Email Erik Uliasz at euliasz@philly2philly.com