The widow of a Philadelphia police officer killed in the line of duty has spoken out after a judge ruled the man convicted of her husband’s murderer will be given the chance to appeal his conviction.
Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted of fatally shooting Officer Daniel Faulkner after he had pulled over Abu-Jamal's brother, William Cook, on Dec. 9, 1981.
Faulkner had pulled over Cook for driving the wrong way down a one-way street, and after Cook exited the car, he struck Faulkner in the face, according to police. The pair began to fight, and Abu-Jamal ran to them from a parking lot across the street and fired at Faulkner, shooting him four times in the back.
Faulkner died at the scene.
Abu-Jamal was found guilty and sentenced to death, but a federal appeals court in 2008 reduced his sentenced to life in prison over flawed jury instructions.
His appeals were thought to be exhausted when his conviction was upheld in 2012, but on Thursday, Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Leon Tucker ruled Abu-Jamal’s appeal should be reconsidered since Chief Justice Ronald Castille, who retired in 2014, was wrong to have heard an appeal in a different case that had come through his office while serving as Philadelphia’s district attorney from 1986 to 1991, Tucker said.
“The slightest appearance of bias or lack of impartiality undermines the entire judiciary,” Tucker said in his opinion.
Faulkner’s widow, Maureen, was furious with the decision.
“I’m absolutely outraged with Leon Tucker,” she said during an appearance on “Fox & Friends.” “Tucker has no merit on this judgement.
“This is going to open the door for so many murderers to be able to do this and appeal this,” she added.
The decision followed a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court finding that Castille had been wrong to hear a death penalty appeal that had come through his office while serving as district attorney.
“They shouldn’t have been able to raise the issue about me, because they never asked me to recuse myself,” Castille told The Associated Press Friday. “The court … knew I’d signed off on the appeal, but I had nothing to do with the trial.”
Abu-Jamal, a one-time taxi driver and radio reporter, has been a vocal critic of the American justice system over his 37 years in prison. In 1996, he published “Life From Death Row,” which explored racism and political bias in the U.S. judicial system. His case drew attention from Amnesty International, celebrities and death penalty opponents.
“The race bias, the judicial bias, the questions of identification and prosecutorial commentary or misconduct — we’re still struggling with them,” University of Pennsylvania law professor and civil rights attorney David Rudovsky, who worked on an early Abu-Jamal appeal, told the AP. “And, of course, with the killing of an officer, and a black activist [charged], it was a recipe for all of the conflicts that we see, then and now.”
Abu-Jamal is now 64.
Faulkner was 25 when he was killed. He had served as a police officer for five years and was a military veteran. He and Maureen had been married a year.
"With his shiny adornments glistening against the dark night, I thought maybe I was dreaming," Faulkner wrote in her book, “Murdered by Mumia: A Life Sentence of Loss, Pain, and Injustice.” “My heart pounded furiously against my rib cage, and my knees felt weak as I opened the door."
Since his murder, Maureen has made it her mission to never miss a court hearing and rail against Abu-Jamal’s supporters. In the fall, she cried out during post-trial arguments, leading Tucker to have her escorted out.
“My emotions got the best of me,” she said at the time. “I mean, when is this case going to end for us?”