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New Pa. law aimed at Mumia Abu-Jamal allows lawsuits against inmates

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett signed a law he said was inspired by "the excesses and pious hypocrisy" of convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.

By Frances Burns
New Pa. law aimed at Mumia Abu-Jamal allows lawsuits against inmates
A Pennsylvania law drafted after convicted killer Mumia Abu-Jamal spoke at a college ceremony allows lawsuits against inmates for "mental anguish." jr/Jim Ruymen/UPI. | License Photo

PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 21 (UPI) -- A Pennsylvania law drafted after convicted killer Mumia Abu-Jamal spoke at a college ceremony allows lawsuits against inmates for "mental anguish."

Gov. Tom Corbett signed the law Tuesday. A recorded address by Abu-Jamal, serving a life sentence for killing a Philadelphia police officer, was played at a commencement ceremony at Goddard College in Vermont.

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"Although the law that I have signed today is not about any one single criminal, it was inspired by the excesses and pious hypocrisy of one particular killer," Corbett said. "This law clarifies, strengthens and empowers the victims of heinous crimes and makes it abundantly clear that victims have rights, too."

Corbett signed the bill at the spot in Philadelphia where Police Officer Daniel Faulkner was killed in 1981. Faulkner's widow, who has been an active counter-campaigner during Abu-Jamal's protest of his conviction, was at Tuesday's signing ceremony.

Abu-Jamal, who was wounded, was found by Faulkner's body. A former radio reporter, he was driving a taxi at the time.

After spending years on death row, Abu-Jamal won a reduction of his sentence to life with no parole. He maintains he is the victim of a racist judicial system.

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The law allows prosecutors or victims to sue inmates convicted of acts of violence against individuals if they engage in actions that cause mental anguish or exacerbate the effects of the crime. Joel Mathis, a lawyer in Philadelphia, told Philadelphia magazine it violates the First Amendment and is "so broad as to be meaningless."

Abu-Jamal's cause won international support, and he has spoken at other commencement ceremonies in the past.

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