Northeast Times

Mumia lawyer nominated to head Civil Rights Division

A U.S. Sen­ate com­mit­tee last week ap­proved Pres­id­ent Obama’s con­tro­ver­sial nom­in­ee to head the Justice De­part­ment’s Civil Rights Di­vi­sion, but a bi­par­tis­an group of elec­ted of­fi­cials isn’t done fight­ing con­firm­a­tion of the former Mu­mia Abu-Jamal de­fense at­tor­ney.

Sen. Pat Toomey, U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick and Phil­adelphia’s first as­sist­ant dis­trict at­tor­ney, Ed­ward Mc­Cann, joined loc­al po­lice uni­on lead­er John McNesby on Monday in con­demning nom­in­ee Debo Ad­e­g­bile for his role in get­ting Abu-Jamal’s death sen­tence over­turned.

Abu-Jamal, aka Wes­ley Cook, murdered on-duty Phil­adelphia Po­lice Of­ficer Daniel Faulkner dur­ing a Cen­ter City traffic stop on Dec. 9, 1981. A jury con­victed Abu-Jamal of the slay­ing and sen­tenced him to death in 1982. The NAACP’s Leg­al De­fense Fund, un­der Ad­e­g­bile’s dir­ec­tion, joined Abu-Jamal’s case in 2009 and helped him get his death sen­tence over­turned in 2012, when a pan­el of ap­pel­late judges ruled that the tri­al judge had not in­struc­ted jur­ors prop­erly. Abu-Jamal is now serving life in pris­on without pa­role.

Dur­ing Monday’s news con­fer­ence at FOP Lodge 5 in the North­east, Toomey said that Ad­e­g­bile should not be ap­poin­ted to the high-level Justice De­part­ment post be­cause he, along with NAACP at­tor­neys un­der his su­per­vi­sion, “pro­moted the myth that Abu-Jamal was some kind of hero­ic polit­ic­al pris­on­er who was framed, in­stead of the cow­ardly un­re­pent­ant mur­der­er that he was and is.”

Pres­id­ent Obama nom­in­ated Ad­e­g­bile, a New York City nat­ive, in Novem­ber. The Sen­ate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee last Thursday ap­proved the nom­in­a­tion, 10-8, with all votes cast along party lines.

Toomey, a Re­pub­lic­an from Pennsylvania, does not sit on the com­mit­tee. Now, the nom­in­a­tion awaits a vote of the full Sen­ate, where Demo­crats hold an eight-vote edge over Re­pub­lic­ans. There are two in­de­pend­ent sen­at­ors. A vote has not been sched­uled but could be called at any time, ac­cord­ing to Toomey. 

Toomey and Fitzpatrick, a Re­pub­lic­an from Bucks and Mont­gomery counties, hope to sway Demo­crats to vote against the nom­in­a­tion. The U.S. House has no form­al role in the con­firm­a­tion pro­cess, but Fitzpatrick has at­temp­ted to in­ter­vene on be­half of Faulkner’s wid­ow, Maur­een.

“We have a second chance here,” Fitzpatrick said. “We have to turn just a hand­ful of votes in the Sen­ate to turn back this nom­in­a­tion. Danny Faulkner was not giv­en a second chance in Decem­ber of 1981. But we have a second chance.”

The Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, chaired by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Ver­mont), con­duc­ted pub­lic hear­ings on the nom­in­a­tion, but Maur­een Faulkner did not get an op­por­tun­ity to testi­fy. On the day of the com­mit­tee vote, Fitzpatrick handed a let­ter from the of­ficer’s wid­ow to com­mit­tee mem­bers. She was 24 at the time of the murder.

“For three dec­ades, my fam­ily and I en­dured ap­peal after ap­peal — each rooted in lies, dis­tor­tions and al­leg­a­tions of civil rights vi­ol­a­tions,” Maur­een Faulkner wrote. “And year after year, judge after judge, the con­vic­tion and sen­tence were un­an­im­ously up­held. Then, thirty years after the fact, my fam­ily, so­ci­ety and I were denied justice when three fed­er­al dis­trict court judges who have found er­ror in every cap­it­al case that has come be­fore them, over­turned the death sen­tence. … In real­ity, Mr. Ad­e­g­bile was a will­ing and en­thu­si­ast­ic ac­com­plice in Mu­mia Abu-Jamal’s bid to cheat us of the justice we waited so many years for.” ••

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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