Monday, April 6, 2009

When Celebrity Trumps Justice

Widow of Slain Policeman Fights On

April 6th, 2009 in American History by Paul Davis

In February Philadelphia buried a 25-year-old police officer killed in the line of duty. Officer John Pawlowski’s accused killer was apprehended and is now on trial.

Another 25-year-old Philadelphia officer was murdered in 1981, and many continue to seek justice for Daniel Faulkner.

The widow of Danny Faulkner has written a book called Murdered by Mumia: A Life Sentence of Loss, Pain and Injustice (Lyons Press). In her book, which is co-authored by Philadelphia Inquirer columnist and talk radio host Michael A. Smerconish, Maureen Faulkner recounts her long fight to counter what she regards as a worldwide, celebrity-driven campaign to overturn the conviction and death sentence of the man who murdered her husband, Mumia Abu Jamal.

On December 9, 1981 Faulkner was shot and killed after stopping Jamal’s brother. Jamal, a former radio reporter, was driving a cab when he saw his brother and Faulkner. According to witnesses, Jamal and Faulkner traded shots. Jamal survived with a chest wound and was arrested with his revolver lying at his feet.

Jamal was tried and convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1983. Support for Jamal, a former Black Panther and supporter of the radical group MOVE, has risen steadily among death-penalty opponents, celebrities and leftist groups as his legal appeals slide slowly through the justice system.

Jamal wrote a book called Live From Death Row, and he has become the world’s most famous Death Row inmate. His photo on posters lags only slightly behind Che Guevara in popularity.

From her side, Faulkner offers a story of her typical upbringing as an Irish Catholic girl from a blue collar neighborhood, her happy and short marriage to Danny, and her pain and suffering as the Jamal case lingers on.

“A cop is murdered by a man he never knew while patrolling the streets in the ordinary course of his duties. Period. End of story. An unfortunate yet simple tale,” Maureen Faulkner writes in her book.

“Or so it should have been. Instead, this ostensibly uncomplicated scenario has been subjected to more manipulation than any other murder in the United States. Without foundation, it has been transformed into a sensational saga of persecution and injustice that has attracted support from, among others, a large group of Hollywood sympathizers, the City of Paris, and even John Street, now Mayor of Philadelphia.”

Both Jamal and his brother have never given a full account of the night of the murder; Jamal has never denied killing Faulkner; and Jamal was disruptive and abusive during his trial. Yet many still proclaim his innocence and offer uncritical support.

Maureen Faulkner has remained faithful to her husband’s memory, and to justice. She has shown bravery equal to that of the police officers who patrol the mean streets of America’s cities.

She believes, as I do, that cop killers should receive a swift sentence of death for their crime. Maureen Faulkner believes that police officers need and deserve that protection.

Paul Davis also writes an American crime blog for Great History. Visit his Web site. He can be reached at

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