Philadelphia Mayor Linked To Jamal Case
(Pic of Mayor Street)
Widow links Street to Abu-Jamal case
By Emilie Lounsberry
Inquirer Staff Writer
The widow of slain Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner charges that Mayor Street tried to interfere with a witness before Mumia Abu-Jamal's trial in 1982, when he was a first-term city councilman and practicing lawyer.
Street's involvement in the famous case is disclosed in a new book about one of Philadelphia's most scrutinized murder cases. The book, Murdered by Mumia: A Life Sentence of Loss, Pain, and Injustice, was written by Maureen Faulkner and Michael Smerconish, a radio host and columnist for The Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News. It is set to be released Thursday.
Maureen Faulkner discussed the book in an Associated Press interview distributed for publication today. Street, through a spokesman, declined to comment yesterday.
The book is the most recent account of a murder case that has attracted national and international attention - mostly because of the writings of Abu-Jamal, an activist and freelance radio reporter who has authored books and given interviews from death row.
"It's been a therapy for me. It really has. The truth is now on paper on what happened the night Danny was murdered," Faulkner told the AP.
The memoir chronicles Faulkner's attempt to rebuild her life as she fights Abu-Jamal's numerous appeals, travels the country to debunk myths about the case, and strives to ensure her husband is not forgotten.
Abu-Jamal, now 53, is awaiting a pivotal ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, and if he loses, he will be closer to execution than at any point in the 25 years since his conviction.
A three-judge panel, which heard oral arguments in May, is weighing whether Abu-Jamal's death sentence should be upheld, or whether he should get a new sentencing hearing or a new trial.
The book is a first-person account by Faulkner. Smerconish assisted her in the writing. Both are barred by their publisher from discussing the contents of the book until its release.
Maureen Faulkner was 25 and had been married to Officer Faulkner for just over a year when he was shot during an early-morning vehicle stop on Dec. 9, 1981. She later moved to California, but has returned often to Philadelphia as Abu-Jamal's case has gone through the lengthy appeals process.
Abu-Jamal, who at the time of the killing was working as a cabdriver, was convicted in July 1982 by a Philadelphia jury of the shooting death of Faulkner, who had just pulled over Abu-Jamal's brother near 13th and Locust Streets.
Prosecutors contended that Abu-Jamal fired the shots that killed Faulkner; Abu-Jamal contended that another man killed Faulkner, then fled.
Street was a councilman when he went to visit key prosecution witness Cynthia White at the Philadelphia Detention Center on June 14, 1982, three days before the start of Abu-Jamal's trial, according to White's statement to detectives two days later.
The prosecutor, Joseph McGill, advised the trial judge of Street's visit at the time and said that it was without his knowledge or permission, according to a trial transcript.
"It was a real concern to me because she was a very important witness," McGill said after learning of the contents of the book. "That's why I brought it to the court's and defense counsel's attention."
According to White's statement to police, Street told her he was there to represent her in the Abu-Jamal case because "the police and DA could charge me with something if they didn't like my statement and Jamal was found not guilty. He stated he was there to keep the police and DA from arresting me."
White said Street asked her if the police or prosecutor "had made any deals with me and I told him no. He asked me this about four times," White later told detectives, according to the statement, obtained by The Inquirer.
She said that she told Street that "I didn't think it was right what he [Abu-Jamal] did so I went up and told the police."
White, an admitted prostitute, testified during the trial that she saw Abu-Jamal run up behind Faulkner and shoot him in the back, then step over him and fire again at the officer.
"There's no doubt; it's him," she told the jury on June 21, 1982.
Faulkner has been critical of Street in the past. In 1997, she wrote a letter to the Daily News, calling Street a "promoter" for Abu-Jamal, after he arranged a Council briefing for Abu-Jamal supporters.
In 2005, Street told Faulkner in a phone call that he believes Abu-Jamal killed her husband and was appropriately sentenced, according to the AP story.
The Inquirer is excerpting from "Murdered by Mumia: A Life Sentence of Loss, Pain, and Injustice," by Maureen Faulkner and Michael Smerconish. Read the first excerpt in Currents.