Philadelphia, PA – The Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced Monday that it was appointing a Special Master to investigate conflicts of interest in Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s handling of convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal’s appeals.
The state’s highest court made the move in response to a request from Maureen Faulkner, the widow of murdered Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, who was shot to death by Abu-Jamal almost 40 years ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Maureen Faulkner petitioned the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to exercise its “King’s Bench” authority and take the case pending before the lower court.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in its decision on Feb. 24, declined to make a final ruling on the widow’s request and instead said a Special Master would be appointed to make a recommendation to the state’s highest court, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Maureen Faulkner’s attorneys have alleged that Krasner has a personal conflict of interest, and so do a number of other people who are closely associated with the anti-cop district attorney.
Abu-Jamal is listed as a board member of the National Lawyers Guild, a group that organized a legal defense for protesters who were arrested for assaulting police and vandalism outside the 2016 Republican National Convention held in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
“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,” Faulkner’s attorneys wrote in their request to the Philadelphia Supreme Court.
Maureen Faulkner began her campaign to have Krasner removed from the case after the District Attorney’s Office failed to oppose a request by Abu-Jamal’s attorneys to have the case sent back to Philadelphia Common Pleas court so new evidence could be presented for the cop-killer’s appeal, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
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 the current district attorney should not have anything to do with her murdered husband’s killer’s case because of a plethora of conflicts of interest.
“Mr. Krasner, I am asking you to voluntarily recuse yourself and anyone else in the District Attorney’s Office from my husband’s case immediately,” Maureen Faulkner publicly announced at a rally outside Krasner’s office on Oct. 4, 2019, according to WHYY.
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.
On Sept. 18, 2019, Maureen Faulkner asked the Superior Court to remove Krasner’s office from defending the guilty verdict against Abu-Jamal and asked them to have the state Attorney General’s Office represent the state’s interests in the case, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The District Attorney’s Office opposed the motion and denied that any conflict of interest existed.
Shortly after Maureen Faulkner’s demonstration wrapped up on Oct. 4, District Attorney’s Office Communications Director Jane Roh posted a picture of the protesters with caption that many characterized as racist.
“There’s something about this picture, can’t qwhite put my finger on it,” Roh tweeted, snarkily pointing out there were no black protesters in the photo.
She continued to make veiled racial references in the comments, including asking if the group had gone to Denny’s afterwards.
“It was racist, unprofessional and totally juvenile,” Maureen Faulkner told Philadelphia Magazine. “She should lose her job.”
“This is a disgrace,” the widow said. “If it was a racist comment about a black or brown person or an Asian person, it would have blown up. People would be marching in the streets about it. But because it’s a comment about white people, everybody lets it be.”
Maureen Faulkner said the district attorney’s spokeswoman’s tweet further undermined her faith in the District Attorney’s Office, Philadelphia Magazine reported.
“What is the mentality of the district attorney?” she asked. “This is a man who has lied to me over and over again. This is a man who has said that he wanted to weed out the white people from his office. Is the DA now racially profiling against white people? I just don’t trust him. And [Roh] needs to go.”
The Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) has thrown its full support behind Maureen Faulkner.
“We hope the PA Supreme Court will ultimately remove DA Krasner from the case,” FOP President John McNesby said in an email to the Philadelphia Inquirer.