Harrisburg, PA – A divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the plea of murdered Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner’s widow to ban Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner from being involved in the appeal of the man who killed her husband.
Officer Faulkner’s brutal murder occurred on Dec. 9, 1981, after he stopped a vehicle, driven by Abu-Jamal’s brother, for driving the wrong way down a one-way street, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
As Officer Faulkner was attempting to take the driver into custody, Abu-Jamal came running from a parking lot across the street and opened fire on the 25-year-old police officer from behind.
Although he had been shot in the back four times, Officer Faulkner was able to return fire, striking the suspect.
Abu-Jamal, though hit, was able to continue shooting, and stood over the wounded officer and shot him in the face, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
Officer Faulkner’s killer tried to flee, but collapsed several feet away from the fallen officer, gun in hand.
Abu-Jamal, a member of the Black Panthers, was convicted of the murder of Officer Faulkner in two separate trials and sentenced to death.
But his attorneys were able to have the death sentence changed to a life sentence in 2011 through a series of appeals.
Then they appealed again, on the basis that one of the state Supreme Court justices who heard his appeal had been district attorney during the time that office was working on Abu-Jamal’s case. The defense said he should have recused himself, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
In December of 2018, a Philadelphia judge ruled that Abu-Jamal would have another opportunity to appeal his case before the Pennsylvania Superior Court.
But Officer Faulkner’s widow said that Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner should not have anything to do with her murdered husband’s killer’s case because of a plethora of conflicts of interest.
The widow has said that Krasner’s wife, Judge Lisa Rau, used to be a partner in the law firm that defended Abu-Jamal.
She also objected to the fact that a top deputy in the district attorney’s office had once represented her husband’s killer, WHYY reported.
“You personally decided to have people who publicly advocated for the release of my husband’s killer on your transition team,” Maureen Faulkner said.
She has accused Krasner of having conflicts of interest, “rolling over on appeals,” and said that since he became district attorney in January of 2018, he has told her “numerous lies and half-truths,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Faulkner petitioned the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to exercise its “King’s Bench” authority and take the case pending before the lower court.
“Krasner was an attorney and lead strategist on a legal team organized by a legal association on which Mumia Abu-Jamal is an active board member and which is dedicated to freeing Jamal,” Maureen Faulkner’s attorneys wrote in their request to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
On Feb. 24, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced that it was appointing a Special Master to investigate conflicts of interest in Krasner’s handling of Abu-Jamal’s appeals.
But then on Dec. 16, the high court’s majority denied Maureen Faulkner’s petition, the Patriot-News reported.
One member of the majority, however, noted that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court should keep an eye on the case and cited concerns raised by the widow’s allegations.
Justice Kevin Dougherty said some of Maureen Faulkner’s claims were “grave and alarming,” the Patriot-News reported.
Doherty pointed to the widow’s assertions that Krasner had not vigorously combatted all of Abu-Jamal’s appeal claims.
He also expressed concern regarding her complaint that Krasner’s staff included people who had previously advocated on behalf of Officer Faulkner’s killer, the Patriot-News reported.
However, Doherty also cited the report from the Special Master who was appointed to investigate Maureen Faulkner’s claims.
Senior Judge John M. Cleland concluded that Krasner’s office had no conflict of interest in Abu-Jamal’s case, the Patriot-News reported.
Justice Sallie Mundy wrote a dissenting opinion that called for the Pennsylvania Attorney General to replace Krasner on the case.
“I conclude that the record before us establishes an appearance of impropriety,” Mundy wrote.
She pointed out the Krasner’s office withdrew a challenge to Abu-Jamal’s appeal without ever talking to the prosecutor who had handled his case, the Patriot-News reported.
The judge also noted that Krasner had referred to the attorneys who prosecuted Abu-Jamal as “war criminals.”
“Such words are particularly disturbing in the context of a matter that has garnered worldwide notoriety, and has become central to public debate on several issues, including the death penalty,” Mundy wrote. “Public confidence in the rule of law requires the involvement of the (DA’s office) in this matter to cease.”
But Justice David N. Wecht, writing for the majority, concluded that Maureen Faulkner did not prove her conflict of interest claims, the Patriot-news reported.
“Ms. Faulkner’s petition is being dismissed because she raised a litany of allegations but was unable to prove any of them,” Wecht wrote.
The police union expressed its displeasure with the high court’s ruling, the Patriot-News reported.
Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge #5 President John McNesby said his organization was “disappointed by the Court’s recent opinion, but we’ve suffered setbacks in this case in the past and we’ll continue to fight for Maureen, the entire Faulkner family, and Philadelphia police officers.”
“We are on the right side of justice in this case and we believe convicted, cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal should remain in prison for the rest of his life,” McNesby added.