Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia Abu-Jamal (born Wesley Cook April 24, 1954) is a black journalist and political activist. He is most famous for his 1982 conviction and death sentence on charges of murder, and for the large subsequent campaigns for and against him.

Before his conviction, Abu-Jamal was a Philadelphia journalist. He began his career, at the age of fourteen, as the lieutenant minister of information with the Philadelphia Black Panther Party. He was also a prominent supporter of the back-to-nature group MOVE, and president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists.

On December 9, 1981, white Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner pulled over Abu-Jamal's brother, William Cook, for driving the wrong way on a one-way street with his lights out. Abu-Jamal, who was driving a cab at the time, happened on the scene. In an ensuing struggle, both Abu-Jamal and Faulkner were shot, Faulkner in the back and in the face; Faulkner died and Abu-Jamal was wounded. Abu-Jamal was arrested at 4 a.m. with a pistol registered in his name at his side.

On July 3, 1982, Abu-Jamal was convicted of Faulkner's murder and sentenced to death. In addition to a conventional criminal defense, Abu-Jamal raised many political issues in his trial, and begged several times for the court to allow his friend John Africa to testify.

His case has become a popular cause among many, among the left including the black nationalist movement, the anti-globalization movement and anti-death penalty activitst. Many supporters have called for a new trial, his release from prison, or the commutation of his sentence to life in prison.

Daniel Faulkner's family and the Fraternal Order of Police believe that Abu-Jamal killed Faulkner while Faulkner was engaged in a legal, justified arrest.

Abu-Jamal's supporters claim that the trial was unfair. Points asserted in his appeals or by his supporters include:

His detractors respond that:

Abu-Jamal's conviction has been upheld in both state and federal courts. In December 2001, a federal judge affirmed his murder conviction but ordered that Abu-Jamal should either receive a new sentencing hearing or have his sentence commuted to life in prison because of an error by the trial judge in presenting rules of sentencing to the jury.

Since his imprisonment, Abu-Jamal has continued his political activism, publishing Live from Death Row, a book on life inside prisons, as well as making frequent commentaries on left-wing radio shows.

In October, 2003, Mumia Abu-Jamal was awarded the status of honorary citizen of Paris in a ceremony attended by former Black Panther Angela Davis. The Socialist mayor of Paris, Bertrand DelanoŽ, said in a press release that the award was meant to be a reminder of the continuing fight against the death penalty, which was abolished in France in 1981. The Communist-sponsored proposal to make Abu-Jamal an honorary citizen was approved by the city's council in 2001.

Amnesty International, according to their website, "has concluded that the proceedings used to convict and sentence Mumia Abu-Jamal to death were in violation of minimum international standards that govern fair trial procedures and the use of the death penalty." However, it is worth noting that Amnesty is against the death penalty in all cases and specifically that they are "not in a position to say whether Mumia Abu-Jamal is innocent or guilty."

External links