By Tony Hanson and Steve Tawa
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It was 30 years ago this Friday that Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner was murdered, gunned down in center city. The convicted killer is Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Now, the Philadelphia district attorney has announced that he has decided not to continue to pursue the death penalty against Abu-Jamal.
Abu-Jamal was sentenced to death but ultimately, after decades of appeals which turned him into an international cause celebre, the sentence was overturned.
Late Tuesday a federal judge ordered the state to take action — either conduct a new sentencing hearing and seek the death penalty again, or sentence Abu-Jamal to life in prison. And do it within 180 days.
But, DA Seth Williams says that after consulting with Officer Faulkner’s widow, Maureen, he will allow the current sentence — life in prison without parole — to stand.
If the prosecution had sought the death penalty again, the case would have been expected to continue for years with additional appeals.
DA Williams says it was a difficult decision because he has no doubt that Abu-Jamal shot and killed Officer Faulkner and that the appropriate sentence was handed down by the jury. But, he says, there were financial and legal considerations, and most importantly, the impact on the family.
Maureen Faulkner, who was just 25 when her husband was gunned down, says she has suffered through 30 years of unimaginable physical, emotional, and financial hell:
“The time remaining before Abu-Jamal stands before his ultimate judge… it doesn’t seem quite so far off as it once did when I was younger. I look forward to that day so I can finally close the book on this chapter of my life.”
But she adds this not the end of her journey, that she will not stop fighting for justice for her husband.
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During the briefing today, Maureen Faulkner said it’s become clear to her that judges of the federal District Courts and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals “simply do as they want, not as the law dictates.”
“And,” she added, “federal judges including the four dishonest cowards who presided over my husband’s case are the fixers.”
Mrs. Faulkner points out since the death penalty was reinstated by the US Supreme Court in 1976, there have been hundreds of death sentences imposed by Pennsylvania juries, but “none has made it through the federal appeals gauntlet.”
Also today, Joe McGill, the former assistant district attorney who prosecuted the Abu-Jamal case in 1982, says today’s decision is not in any way a victory for the convicted cop killer, who would have used a new sentencing hearing as a platform, “because what he would do is nothing more than generate more self-publicity for himself, his actions, and philosophy.”
Mrs. Faulkner added that it’s a disgrace that money has poured into Abu-Jamal’s defense fund while he “operates a cottage industry in prison.”