Some Americans may vaguely recall Mumia Abu-Jamal from the "Free Mumia" T-shirts and posters that once cluttered college campuses. Maureen Faulkner will forever remember him as the cold-blooded cop killer who left her a widow at age 24. Maureen has endured three decades of endless appeals and a dishonest, international campaign to turn her husband's killer into a celebrated icon for the radical left.
Now one of the lawyers who helped to promote that campaign, Debo Adegbile, has been nominated to lead the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. A vote on that nomination is scheduled this week in the Senate.
This affront cannot stand.
The facts are clear. On Dec. 9, 1981, Mumia Abu-Jamal brutally murdered 25-year-old Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. Abu-Jamal's guilt has never been in doubt. Four eyewitnesses saw Abu-Jamal shoot Faulkner in the back and then, while the officer was lying helplessly on the ground, shoot several more bullets into his chest and face. Three other witnesses heard Abu-Jamal brag that he had shot Faulkner and hoped the officer died. And when Danny Faulkner's blood-stained shirt was displayed at trial, the jury saw Abu-Jamal turn in his chair and smirk at Faulkner's young widow. So it was no surprise when a Pennsylvania jury took just three hours to convict Abu-Jamal of murder and two hours to sentence him to death.
Instead of allowing Maureen Faulkner to grieve in peace, a group of political opportunists fabricated claims of racism, spread lies about the case, and organized rallies that, amazingly, portrayed Abu-Jamal as the victim. Soon Abu-Jamal was a cause célebrè, complete with adoration from Hollywood celebrities and a street named after him in France. High-priced lawyers lined up to volunteer their time to file dozens of appeals for Abu-Jamal, forcing Maureen to relive the tragedy decade after decade.
This legal fight and public relations campaign to "free Mumia" were well underway in 2009, when, 27 years after Daniel Faulkner's murder, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) decided to join the fray. LDF's director of litigation at the time, Debo Adegbile, was an active part of Abu-Jamal's legal team, signing legal briefs and supervising the other, more junior LDF lawyers. This was not a case of every defendant deserving a lawyer: Abu-Jamal already had multiple attorneys. This was about joining a political cause. As part of this cause, the lawyers supervised by Adegbile promoted the myth that Abu-Jamal was an innocent man who was framed because of his race.
For example, in April 2011, at a rally in New York City, a lawyer working for Adegbile gushed, "It is absolutely my honor to represent Mumia Abu-Jamal" and affirmed "there is no question in the mind of anyone at the Legal Defense Fund, that the justice system has completely and utterly failed Mumia Abu-Jamal," and this "has everything to do with race."
There was never any merit to these claims of racism - a conclusion reached by both state and federal courts. The jury that convicted and sentenced Abu-Jamal to death included two African Americans and would have included one more, except that Abu-Jamal ordered his lawyer not to seat the juror.
Amazingly, Adegbile is proud of his role in Abu-Jamal's case, testifying that it demonstrates America's "commitment ... to follow our procedural rules even in those hardest cases."
Thanks in part to the efforts of Adegbile, today Mumia Abu-Jamal is alive and off of death row. While Maureen Faulkner has only memories of her husband and can only dream of the children and grandchildren she and Danny should have had, Abu-Jamal gets to hug his wife, talk to his children, and play with his grandchildren every time they visit him.
This heartbreaking outcome is not justice. The fact that Adegbile does not understand that makes him unfit to serve as a leader in the Justice Department.