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Mumia Abu-Jamal to speak at Goddard commencement

Police Officer Daniel Faulkner's widow called the invitation to his killer, Mumia Abu-Jamal, to speak at a college commencement "despicable."

By Frances Burns

PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- Mumia Abu-Jamal, the former radio reporter convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer, is to speak at a commencement ceremony at Goddard College.

Abu-Jamal, a Goddard alumnus currently serving a life sentence in Pennsylvania, will not appear in person at Goddard in Plainfield, Vt. Abu-Jamal's remarks have been pre-recorded to be played at the ceremony Oct. 5 along with a documentary, Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal.

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"As a reflection of Goddard's individualized and transformational educational model, our commencements are intimate affairs where each student serves as her or his own valedictorian, and each class chooses its own speaker," said Goddard College Interim President Bob Kenny.

"Choosing Mumia as their commencement speaker, to me, shows how this newest group of Goddard graduates expresses their freedom to engage and think radically and critically in a world that often sets up barriers to do just that."

Abu-Jamal, 60, received international support after he was sentenced to death for gunning down police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981. When a federal appeals court ordered a new sentencing hearing, prosecutors agreed to a life term with no parole in 2011.

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Faulkner was shot during a traffic stop involving Abu-Jamal's brother. Abu-Jamal, who was driving a taxi at the time, was wounded in an apparent exchange of gunfire with the officer and was found with a gun next to him with five spent cartridges.

In September, lawyer Debo Adegbile withdrew his name from consideration to head the U.S. Justice Department's civil rights division because of controversy over his involvement in Abu-Jamal's appeals.

Maureen Faulkner, the police officer's widow, was angered by the invitation to Abu-Jamal.

"It's not appropriate," Faulkner said. "His freedom was taken away when he murdered a police officer in the line of duty. It seems like our justice system allows murderers to continue to have a voice over the public airwaves and at college commencement. It's despicable."

Goddard is a small liberal arts college with branches in Seattle and Port Townsend, Wash., as well as Vermont. Abu-Jamal received a degree in 1996 after taking correspondence courses from death row.

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