A new law in Pennsylvania allowing violent crime victims to sue offenders over anguish-causing conduct is facing a legal challenge.
Convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal and prisoners rights advocates are filing suit to reverse the law, which passed after Abu-Jamal gave a taped graduation speech at Vermont’s Goddard College. The legislation lets victims, as well as prosecutors, seek injuctive relief over conduct by convicts that “perpetuates the continuing effect of the crime on the victim.”
Bret Grote, Abu-Jamal’s attorney, said the law violates the First Amendment.
“The extent to which they’re able to strip Mr. Abu-Jamal of his constitutional rights, they’re going to be able to then have these precedents to use against others whose speech troubles people in power,” he said. “So we think it’s very important to get rid of this law before the ink is dry on it.”
Abu-Jamal is currently serving life in prison for killing Philadelphia police Officer Daniel Faulkner.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams and Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane are named as defendants in Abu-Jamal’s suit.
Tasha Jamerson, a spokeswoman for Williams, said the statute would be “invoked with disrection.”
“At this point,” she added, “the ink is barely dry, and no defendant can claim that his rights have been violated. The only people who have been harmed up to now are the Faulkners and the many others who have been victimized by these convicted criminals.”
A spokesman for Kane will review the lawsuit once her office receives it.
The American Civil Liberties Union said it is planning to file a separate lawsuit challenging the legislation in the coming weeks.