Scores of demonstrators waved banners and signs protesting the 1982 murder conviction of Mumia Abu-Jamal outside the TODAY studio in New York on Thursday. Inside, the widow of the Philadelphia policeman Abu-Jamal was found guilty of killing wondered aloud when people will accept the truth.
“He murdered my husband in cold blood, and there is no doubt in my mind, absolutely no doubt,” Maureen Faulkner told TODAY co-host Matt Lauer.
Faulkner was invited on the show to talk about her new book on the death of her husband at the age of 25, shortly after their wedding in December 1981.
She was joined by her her co-author, Philadelphia conservative talk show host Michael Smerconish to discuss the book, "Murdered by Mumia: A Life Sentence of Loss, Pain and Injustice.”
Daniel Faulkner had stopped Abu-Jamal’s brother for a traffic violation. When Abu-Jamal saw his brother struggle with Faulkner, police said, he shot Faulkner several times, putting a final bullet in his head as he lie bleeding on the sidewalk.
A jury agreed with the police, finding Abu-Jamal guilty of first-degree murder in 1982 and sentencing him to death. Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther, taxi driver and radio journalist, maintained his innocence.
He and his supporters have claimed for 25 years that he was framed by what they call a racist legal system.
Over the years, his cause has been taken up by performers and actors, who continue to file appeals for new trials. In 2001, they succeeded in getting the death sentence overturned, but Abu-Jamal, now 53, remains in prison serving a life sentence.
Every time there is a new protest or story about Abu-Jamal’s claims, Faulkner’s emotional wounds are reopened, she said.
“After Danny was murdered in 1981 and he was buried and the case was over, I thought I could go on with my life and try to rebuild and have a new life,” she told Lauer. “But for the past 26 years, I’ve just been haunted by the Free-Mumia movement.”
The protestors, she added, rarely refer to her dead husband.
“So often, they do not mention Danny’s name,” she said. “That’s what they need to do. He was a young police officer, he was 25 years old, and he was brutally murdered by Mumia.”
Lauer asked Faulkner to view a monitor showing the protestors outside the studio and asked her why she thinks they had come.
“They are trying the case in the court of public opinion and not in the court of law,” she said. “That’s why people need to read the book. It’s all there. My life, the facts, what happened the night my husband was murdered. It’s all in the book.”
Abu-Jamal’s defenders say that everything is not in the book or in the record. They say that evidence was tampered with and have recently unearthed photographs taken of the murder scene by a freelance photographer 26 years ago. They say the photos show inconsistencies with the police testimony that convicted Abu-Jamal.
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“This is an outrage,” Smerconish said. “For 26 years, these canards have enabled the manipulation of the process. It is reliable as Christmas is on the 25th of December that they will come up with something different every year. Where does it stop?”
Faulkner hopes that it ends for her with the publication of her book.
“It was therapy for me to get my life in black and white so people could read it,” she said.
“America needs to know the story of an unbelievable woman who for 26 years has fought the fight when most of us would have washed our hands and walked away,” added Smerconish, who is donating any proceeds he receives from sales of the book to the charity Faulkner set up in memory of her husband, the Justice for Daniel Faulkner Foundation, which supports the children of Philadelphia murder victims.
Abu-Jamal’s most recent appeal is pending in the federal courts.
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