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Mumia Abu-Jamal sues to overturn law inspired by his Goddard speech

Maureen Faulkner, widow of the Philadelphia police officer killed by Mumia Abu-Jamal, pushed for the law introduced after he gave a commencement speech.

By
Frances Burns
James Lafferty of the National Lawyers Guild announces a drive to stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal and win him a new trial during a 1999 news conference in Los Angeles. At the time, Abu-Jamal was on Death Row but he is now serving a life sentence. UPI/Jim Ruymen/File
James Lafferty of the National Lawyers Guild announces a drive to stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal and win him a new trial during a 1999 news conference in Los Angeles. At the time, Abu-Jamal was on Death Row but he is now serving a life sentence. UPI/Jim Ruymen/File | License Photo

PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 10 (UPI) -- Mumia Abu-Jamal, imprisoned for killing a Philadelphia police officer, says a new Pennsylvania law is primarily aimed at silencing him.

Abu-Jamal filed a lawsuit Monday, saying the law violates the First Amendment. The law allows both prosecutors and victims of crime or their survivors to sue inmates for conduct that continues to create anguish.

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While the law does not mention Abu-Jamal, it was introduced and passed immediately after he gave a videotaped commencement speech to a group of students at Goddard College in Vermont. Maureen Faulkner, widow of Officer Daniel Faulkner, pushed the legislature to pass the law and was present when Gov. Tom Corbett signed it at the place where her husband was gunned down in December 1981.

"The statute was enacted principally to silence plaintiff Mumia Abu-Jamal," the plaintiffs, who include two other inmates, said in court papers.

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Abu-Jamal, 60, was a former radio reporter working as a cabdriver when he was charged with Faulkner's murder. He spent years on Death Row before his sentence was commuted to life with no parole.

During his years in prison, Abu-Jamal received support from people across the world who believe he was the victim of a racist judicial system. He was found near Faulkner, also wounded by gunfire.

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In the complaint, the plaintiffs say the law, an amendment to the Crime Victims Act, was passed only 16 days after Abu-Jamal's Goddard speech. They quote Corbett, who said at signing that the law aims to prevent violent criminals from "using public venues to promote themselves and their own agenda."

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