Like thousands of others in America, my family and I are political prisoners trapped by our legal system. We committed no crime, yet we received life sentences with no possibility of parole or reprieve.
Thirty-seven years ago, Mumia Abu-Jamal murdered my husband, Officer Daniel Faulkner, by shooting him point-blank in the forehead as he lay unarmed and wounded on the sidewalk. Today we hear so many stories about innocent cops being murdered; they seem as common as reports of bad traffic accidents. Most law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty receive the tears, concern, honor, and thanks they deserve, only to fade away in the public’s consciousness to become sociology statistics.
On Monday, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner will have to fight to keep Danny’s guilty killer in prison. Mumia Abu-Jamal’s attorneys will argue that past Philadelphia District Attorney Ron Castille violated Abu-Jamal’s constitutional rights when, as a state Supreme Court justice, Castille chose not to recuse himself from involvement in the state Supreme Court’s reviews of Abu-Jamal’s many appeals in the 1990s. Because the appeals process can be skewed in favor of convicted killers, Abu-Jamal and dozens of other guilty criminals have been given a new tool with which to retroactively attempt to pick the lock on the courtroom door that leads to freedom.
Gov. Wolf and Krasner have politicized the use of capital punishment and life sentences in Pennsylvania, so for all practical purposes, each of us who has lost a loved one to murder is a political prisoner. Politicians have taken away the hope we once had that our suffering might finally end when the person who murdered our loved one was put to death. Today, thousands of survivors in Pennsylvania endure endless cruel and unusual punishment in silence. Many haven’t eaten or slept properly for decades, and some become physically or mentally ill due to the psychological suffering we endure. All of us must suffer frequent bag-over-the-head punches to the face that come in the form of unexpected and unending legal appeals, and we survive in a state of constant darkness, not unlike that experienced in solitary confinement; never knowing if the person who murdered our loved one will someday find a sympathetic district attorney or judge who will set him free due to a legal technicality.
Despite the suffering I have endured, I still absolutely and unwaveringly support the death penalty in Pennsylvania and throughout the country — as do nearly 70 percent of all Americans. There are many ugly secrets people against capital punishment don’t want you to hear, among them that every time an appellate judge uses a legal technicality to overturn or reduce a death sentence to life in prison, he also imposes an emotional life sentence on the family and friends of the victim.
Now, my family and I must stop our lives to attend a hearing where a Philadelphia judge will decide if, back in the mid-1990s, Justice Castille should have had the foresight to see the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court, more than 20 years later, might make a decision that suggests he should have considered recusing himself from a single case in which he had no significant involvement. If he prevails, Mumia Abu-Jamal will be permitted to set the legal clock back to 1995 and have his appeals re-reviewed by the current state Supreme Court.
Given the current political environment, my family and I have grave concerns about how the judge might rule. We are asking Krasner to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Faulkner family, as so many district attorneys have before, and oppose any efforts by Abu-Jamal and his attorneys to free a clearly guilty and properly convicted cop killer.
We ask Krasner to set aside his desire for social and legal reconstruction and aggressively perform the duties of the job he swore to perform, and fight for all victims of murder and violent crime. If you agree, please call Krasner and respectfully advise him you expect the same thing.
Maureen Faulkner is the wife of slain Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, who was killed in 1981 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.