Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Abu-Jamal Resolution Splits PA. Senate on Racial Lines


Abu-Jumal resolution splits Pa. Senate on racial lines

(Photo Of Maureen Faulkner)

By Amy Worden

INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU

HARRISBURG - Nearly 25 years after the slaying of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, the racial divide over his killer's conviction was reflected today in a vote on a state Senate resolution.

The Senate overwhelmingly passed the measure condemning the French city of St.-Denis for naming a street in honor of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was sentenced to death in 1982 for shooting Faulkner during a traffic stop.

But the resolution prompted rare debate and ended in a 44-4 vote split along racial lines. The only "no" votes came from African-American senators, all from Philadelphia.

Sen. Vincent Hughes (D., Phila.) said he could not support the resolution because he did not believe that Abu-Jamal received a fair trial.

During the last two decades, Abu-Jamal, 53, a former Philadelphia journalist and activist, has become a symbol for death penalty opponents around the world.

The city of St.-Denis, a multi-ethnic suburb of Paris, dedicated a street in his honor in April.

The resolution's sponsor, President Pro Tempore Robert C. Jubelirer (R., Blair) called the street naming "the most offensive thing he had ever seen" and said it was an "affront to the system of justice."

A similar resolution introduced by House Speaker John M. Perzel (R., Phila.) passed unanimously on Monday with no debate.

Rep. Harold James (D., Phila.), a retired police officer, voted for the resolution, but agrees with Hughes that Abu-Jamal did not get a fair trial.

James said he didn't raise any opposition because he believed the resolution was meaningless.

"I just didn't think that Pennsylvania trying to tell France what to do was going to go anywhere," he said.

Both resolutions ask the French government to "take appropriate action" if the the city fails to act.

Faulkner's widow, Maureen, has urged a tourist boycott of Paris and U.S. Reps. Michael G. Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.) and Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.) have sponsored a congressional resolution demanding the name be changed.

Last year, a federal appeals court agreed to consider Abu-Jamal's appeal of his conviction on ground that the jury selection was racially biased.

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