(The following excerpts are from "Murdered by Mumia: A Life Sentence of Pain, Loss and Injustice," by Maureen Faulkner and Michael Smerconish.
The book retells the death of Faulkner's husband, Daniel; the trial of Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted of the murder; and the ups and downs of nearly 26 years since the crime. Written from Maureen Faulkner's viewpoint, the segment below recounts a May 2007 hearing on Abu-Jamal's status - a hearing still unresolved. Afterward, she responds to reporters' questions.)
The reporters began to question me. I was asked about my feelings on how long it had taken to get to this point, and I mentioned how I had known many of them when this all started in 1981 and how we had all kind of grown old together waiting for the case to move forward. That comment drew a pained laugh from a few of the older folks in the group.
Then I was asked if, given all the time that had passed, it wouldn't be better for me and my family if the [U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which is considering a 2001 ruling that directed that Abu-Jamal be resentenced] decided to give Abu-Jamal life in prison (life without parole, or LWOP) and have this all end. This idea was not new. In the past I had often thought of or been asked by friends about the same thing.
I had never been asked this question in public, but I knew my answer before the reporter had finished the question.
I explained that I was wise enough to know that in our legal system, LWOP is not what it seems. I explained to the reporters that unless Jamal is executed, my family and I will have to live every day of the rest of our lives knowing that a future governor could set Abu-Jamal free with the stroke of a pen, and that I had no doubt that Abu-Jamal's misguided and uninformed supporters and friends would relentlessly lie about the facts to future generations in order to perpetuate the myth that Abu-Jamal is a victim of a racist justice system, then demand his release. . . .
I noted that over the years I had repeatedly seen governors commute the sentences of murderers - especially those who had grown old in prison - simply because they cut a sympathetic image of a harmless old man, a grandfatherly type, with grown children and grandchildren, or someone who was terminally ill, a person who committed a crime in a bygone day who had been "punished enough." . . .
I told them I wanted to be certain that Abu-Jamal could never be free again - that he would die alone in prison away from his family, as [my husband] Danny had died alone on the street on Dec. 9 [, 1981].
I also explained that first-degree murder - the crime Abu-Jamal had been unanimously convicted of by a jury of his own choosing - is different from any other crime. I told them that, in my heart, I firmly believe that a person who knowingly and violently takes the life of another person, especially a police officer, should forfeit his or her own life. We owe that to our law-enforcement officials: the knowledge that criminals know and see that if they choose to kill a police officer, they will forfeit their own lives in return. Police officers need and deserve that protection.
After the press conference, I walked away feeling uplifted [because] I had not only expressed my desire to see Abu-Jamal executed [but also] had a chance to explain why I felt that way. I also felt good about expressing my feelings, as a survivor, about capital punishment and why my family and I need to see Abu-Jamal executed.
I had thought long and hard about these things, and I was comfortable with my feelings and my rational need for closure, which all survivors have. Having put my feelings into words in public, I was more confident than ever in the righteousness of my struggle.
So where does all of this leave me today, as I draw near the 26th anniversary [of Daniel Faulkner's death]? As of this writing, I am awaiting the decision of the Third Circuit. Whatever that decision, it will not be the end of the road, as one side (or both) could ask the entire court to hear the case, and then the Supreme Court of the United States will certainly be approached. . . .
Some will no doubt say I am fighting in vain, given the national mood regarding the death penalty, and in particular the trends in Pennsylvania. In the last seven years in Pennsylvania, an estimated 50 inmates facing execution have gotten new leases on life behind bars as state and federal judges overturn death sentences at a rate that is buoying opponents of capital punishment and infuriating prosecutors. Since the death penalty was reinstated in Pennsylvania in 1978, only three individuals have had a death sentence carried out, and each of them asked for it!
I am fighting for a jury sentence to be carried out in a state that for all practical purposes has no death penalty.
Still, the only thing I know for sure is that my sequel will continue to run until the process finally grinds to a halt. There is nothing more frightening to me than the thought of Mumia Abu-Jamal alive and maybe even walking the earth a free and dangerous man - and in Danny's name, I will never allow that to occur.
Michael Smerconish's column appears Thursdays in the Daily News and Sundays in Currents. He can be heard from 5:30 to 9 a.m. weekdays on "The Big Talker," WPHT-AM (1210). Contact him via the Web at http://www.mastalk.com/
Coming in the Inquirer daily Magazine:
Tuesday: The night he died.