Debra J. Saunders

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal seeking a new trial for death-row inmate and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted in the 1981 shooting of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Earlier, a lower court rescinded Abu-Jamal's death penalty, which prosecutors have asked to be reinstated. Meanwhile, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, last week's ruling "virtually guarantees that the internationally known death-row inmate will never be freed."

Perhaps there were tears shed in Paris, where he is an honorary citizen and where the suburb of St. Denis named a one-way street "Rue Mumia Abu-Jamal" in 2006. But I see it as a sign of healthy change that in America the ruling went largely unprotested.

Call it progress. Being convicted for killing a police officer has lost the cachet it once had for the far left -- especially since Oakland just buried slain police officers Sgts. Mark Dunakin, Ervin Romans and Daniel Sakai, and Officer John Hege.

Consider that Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, introduced a House resolution honoring the four Oakland officers. She once signed a letter against Abu-Jamal's execution. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution naming a day in Abu-Jamal's honor. Ditto the European Parliament. The anti-Iraq war group Not in Our Name proudly advertised Abu-Jamal's endorsement as one of its celebrity signatories -- unbothered by the prospect of dubbing a cop-killer as a committed peacenik. Writer Alice Walker likened Abu-Jamal to South African leader Nelson Mandela.

Oakland schools scheduled a Mumia teach-in for January 1999 -- although it was mostly derailed after a sniper shot Oakland officer James Williams Jr., whose funeral was held on the same day. The teach-in lesson plan had referred to Abu-Jamal not as a cop killer, but as a "political prisoner."

Be it noted, the letter signed by Lee and others argued against Abu-Jamal's execution because "he well may be innocent." The usual Hollywood stars -- Ed Asner, Mike Farrell -- were happy to impugn the motives and behavior of Philly police and prosecutors. Devotees desperately clung to the notion that Abu-Jamal, formerly Wesley Cook, was a victim of racism. Indeed, they so wanted to believe that Abu-Jamal was unfairly convicted that they overlooked the gratuitous execution of Faulkner.

But the evidence was overwhelming. A jury -- and not all the members were white, as it included two African-Americans -- convicted Abu-Jamal and sentenced him to death.


Debra J. Saunders


 
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