Mumia's other crime
By Michael Smerconish - Daily News
Philadelphia Daily News
Daily News Opinion Columnist
SADLY, the list of those with a personal stake in the outcome of the Mumia Abu-Jamal saga continues to grow, even as the case of the celebrated death-row inmate appears headed for a close.
There are seven families mourning Philadelphia police officers killed in the line of duty since 2006. Surely they took note of Monday's announcement that the Supreme Court has denied Abu-Jamal a new trial. Who could blame them for any concern about the barely turning wheels of justice nearly three decades after police officer Danny Faulkner was slain?
The same goes for the families of Pittsburgh officers Paul Sciullo, Stephen Mayhle and Eric Kelly, the heroes allegedly executed last weekend by a neo-Nazi named Richard Poplawski. Like Abu-Jamal, Poplawski survived his confrontation with police. And like Abu-Jamal, he's planning to be productive in jail.
Poplawski told police he surrendered because he figured he could "work out and sleep" behind bars. "I can write a book," he reportedly said.
And why not? Abu-Jamal has published five on death row. Maybe National Public Radio will offer Poplawski a show. Perhaps a college will invite him to be a commencement speaker. Will Poplawski be arguing for freedom in 2036?
At least justice was meted out in Oakland, Calif., a city still mourning the loss of Sgts. Ervin Romans, Daniel Sakai and Mark Dunakin and officer John Hege, executed last month by 26-year-old parolee Lovelle Mixon.
Like Abu-Jamal, Mixon stood over the officers he wounded and reportedly pumped what the Los Angeles Times called "coup de grace rounds" into their bodies. Unlike Abu-Jamal, Mixon got the justice he deserved - and the courts probably would have failed to deliver - when a SWAT officer shot and killed him in his sister's apartment. How ironic that those murders happened 10 years after Oakland public schools scheduled a teach-in to support Abu-Jamal. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, no less.
Not only should the families of murdered cops worry that their cases will end up like Abu-Jamal's, they should blame the judicial system's handling of his appeal for paving the way for the murder of more cops.
Today, no prospective cop-killer could rightly worry that he will pay with his own life for murdering a police officer.
After all, Abu-Jamal's charade has lasted so long that fellow inmates call him "Pops."
Which is why Monday's decision is so important. It is devoutly to be hoped that real closure is coming.
"What these people will know, and what the families of the police officers throughout the nation that have suffered these terrible acts . . . they know that a district attorney's office, that a prosecution will not quit," said Joseph McGill, the former assistant district attorney who was assigned by Ed Rendell to prosecute Abu-Jamal in 1982.
He was referring to public servants like Hugh Burns, chief of the D.A.'s appeals unit.
"No new trial," a jubilant Burns told me the morning after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Abu-Jamal's claim that blacks had been purposely excluded from the jury in his original 1982 murder trial. That ongoing complaint of racism - shown, Abu-Jamal contended, by the composition of a mostly white jury - has been a particularly scurrilous charge leveled at McGill. But the high court didn't take the bait.
It's about time. But regardless of whether the switch is ever flipped on Abu-Jamal, the last 27 years have already taken a toll.
Maureen Faulkner, Officer Danny Faulkner's widow, has been forced to endure the abuse of Abu-Jamal's cohorts and the grandstanding of a cadre of clueless celebrities for more than a quarter-century. She has done so with dignity and grace befitting a hero like her husband.
What must the families of the 4,500-plus police officers killed in the line of duty since 1982 think when they consider how long Maureen's struggle has persisted? How many of those cop-killers would have been deterred if the judicial system had swiftly carried out the sentence jurors prescribed for Abu-Jamal in 1982? We'll never know. But just one would be enough. *
Listen to Michael Smerconish weekdays 5-9 a.m. on the Big Talker, 1210/AM. Read him Sundays in the Inquirer. Contact him via the Web at www.mastalk.com.