Former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal has recently stated his opinion that racism has been a significant factor in his death row conviction.
28 years ago, Abu-Jamal, whose birth name is Wesley Cook, was sentenced to death for the murder of Philadelphia police officer, Daniel Faulkner. The case has since gained international attention, and has created a significant division between supporters and opposition. While his supporters have insisted that racism has been a leading factor in his conviction, others have countered that he has used his skin color to avoid punishment. In either case, next month, the Supreme Court will decide whether to move forward with a hearing that will determine if Abu-Jamal will still face execution.
“The central issue in this case is racism in jury selection,” Abu-Jamal wrote to his supporters last month. It is no secret that race has been a permeating factor throughout the case. In addition to the fact that Abu-Jamal is black and Faulkner was white, ten whites and only two blacks made up the original jury that sentenced him to death nearly three decades ago.
According to testimonies in 1982, witnesses said that they saw Faulkner pull over Abu-Jamal’s brother in a late-night traffic stop. Onlookers alleged that Abu-Jamal, who was nearby, ran over to Faulkner and shot him in the back and in the head. Abu-Jamal was also wounded in the altercation.
“We are in an epic struggle in which his life hangs in the balance,” said Robert Bryan, the chief defense attorney. “What occurs now in the Supreme Court will determine whether Mumia will have a new jury trial or die at the hands of the executioner.”
During his incarceration, Abu-Jamal has continued his involvement in civil rights activism and has been an avid critic of the criminal justice system. He has written several books including the notable Live From Death Row.
Although Abu-Jamal has many supporters like Harry Belafonte, the NAACP, and the European Parliament, prosecutors have worked diligently to keep Abu-Jamal on death row for Faulkner’s murder.
“This assassination has been made a circus by those people in the world and this city who believe falsely that Mumia Abu-Jamal is some kind of a folk hero,” Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham said last year. “He is nothing short of an assassin.”