Mumia Abu Jamal

4714 WORDS

Mumia Abu Jamal

Wesley Cook was born in 1954. While he was protesting at a George Wallace for
president rally in 1968, several white men attacked him. He claims that two men
grabbed him. One kicked his face and skull, while the other kicked him in the
groin. As the beating progressed, "he looked up and saw the two-toned
gold-trimmed pant leg of a Philadelphia police officer." He yelled for the
police, who saw him on the ground being beaten to a pulp. "A police officer
marched over briskly, and kicked him in the face."1 "I have been thankful to
that faceless cop ever since, for he kicked me straight into the Black Panther

Party."2 Wesley Cook became a founding member of the Black Panther Party’s

Philadelphia chapter in 1969 at the age of 15. After joining mainstream news
organizations in the 1970’s, Wesley Cook changed his name to Mumia Abu-Jamal.

As a teenage journalist, Jamal took an interest in stories about police
brutality. Jamal was known to be a rare talent of radio journalism. He had a
powerful intellect and a burning empathy for poor people. He was known as a
skillful interviewer and became a well-known figure in local broadcasting
journalism. Jamal appeared on National Public Radio, the National Black Network,
and local Philadelphia stations including WUHY-FM (now WHYY). He had a lot of
admiring friends in journalism and politics, and had no prior record of crime or
violence. Despite his personal experience of police brutality and years as a
teenage Black Panther, he kept his noise clean even under the microscope of the

FBI and Philadelphia police surveillance. By the late 1970’s, Jamal was also
an ardent sympathizer and supporter of MOVE – a black militant
antiestablishment, antipolice group. He started wearing his hair in long
dreadlocks like a MOVE member. By mid 1981, Jamal’s growing obsession with

MOVE had compromised his standing as a journalist and cost him his job at WUHY.

He started freelancing his writing skills, while moonlighting as a cabdriver. He
was robbed while on duty with his cab, so he started to carry a gun. 3 During
this time, the Philadelphia Police Department was so notorious for violence and
police brutality, that the United States Justice Department, in an unprecedented

1979 civil suit, charged then mayor (and former police commissioner) Frank Rizzo
and the top police brass with "encouraging rampant police brutality, racism,
and lying." This suit was later dismissed on jurisdictional grounds.4 On

December 9, 1981, Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner was shot to death.

On July 3, 1982 Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted of Officer Faulkner’s murder and
sentenced to death. Beyond these two facts, there are a number of versions of
the incidents that lead to Mumia Abu-Jamal’s conviction. This paper will
review the incidents of December 9, 1981 and show that Mumia Abu-Jamal was not
provided a fair and impartial trial by his peers, and was wrongly convicted and
sentenced for the death of Officer Faulkner. What the Jury Heard: On December 9,

1981, at 3:51 a.m. Officer Faulkner stopped Mr. William Cook (Jamal’s
brother), who was driving a Volkswagen Beetle for a traffic violation, on the
south side of Locust Street about 80 feet east of 13th Street. The area at the
time was known for its seediness. The area had many late-night bars, nightclubs,
cafes, and streetwalkers. Officer Faulkner radioed his location and then added:

"On second thought, send me a wagon."5 He was apparently planning to arrest

Mr. Cook or someone in Mr. Cook’s car for an unknown reason. According to two
prosecution witnesses, both Faulkner and Cook got out of their cars. Faulkner
spread-eagled Mr. Cook across one of the cars and then suddenly turned and
slugged Officer Faulkner. Faulkner responded by clubbing Cook several times with
his 17-inch flashlight. Mr. Cook’s face and neck were bloody when police
arrived. By coincidence, Mumia Abu-Jamal was parked in his cab and came out of a
parking lot on the northeast corner of Locust and 13th. He accelerated from a
walk to a run as he charged toward Officer Faulkner across Locust Street. It was
never fully disclosed at the trial, why Jamal’s cab was parked nearby. He just
happened to be around. In any event, this is when the point blank shooting
started to occur. According to the prosecution’s theory, Jamal ran up behind

Officer Faulkner to within one foot, and shot him in the back. The wounded

Faulkner turned around and returned fire, hitting Jamal in the chest, and
falling onto his back. Jamal then

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