DA Williams says he won’t try to get death penalty for Mumia Abu-Jamal

Philadelphia’s District Attorney has decided not to fight to re-impose the death penalty against Mumia Abu Jamal.  It means the man convicted of killing police officer Daniel Faulkner will serve life in prison.

Two days before the 30th anniversary of the killing of Officer Faulkner, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced he would not seek a capital sentence for Abu-Jamal.  Williams would have had to request a new sentencing hearing and call witnesses from the long-ago shooting.  Williams says he made the decision to spare the Faulkner family the anguish of re-living the incident.

“Another penalty proceeding would open the case to a repetition of the state appeals process  followed by an unknowable number of years of review in federal court again even if we were successful,” said Williams.

Widow Maureen Faulkner was choked up as she spoke.

“This decision certainly does not mark the end of my journey nor will I stop fighting to see justice done for my husband and I am heartened by the thought he will be taken from the protective cloister he has been living in all these years and will begin living with his own kind, the thugs and common criminals that infest our prisons,” said Faulkner.

Former Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police head Rich Costello is upset about the case, saying the court system did not do its job, especially the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals.  That court found potentially misleading instructions in Abu-Jamal’s sentencing hearing and so threw out the death sentence.

“As a matter of fact, the Third Circuit has taken the judiciary from the third branch of government and made it an accessory after the fact in the cold-blooded murder of Officer Faulkner,” said Costello.

Former prosecutor Joe McGill won the conviction against Abu-Jamal.

“It’s not about life or death it’s about guilt, and guilt has been proven and affirmed by every court of this land, most unanimously, and this would include the U.S. Supreme Court,” said McGill.

A statement from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which has been representing Abu-Jamal  with Widener Professor Judith Ritter says the District Attorney did the right thing, because after three decades, it was time for the quest for a death sentence for Abu Jamal to end.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.