Sen. Toomey and Philly DA Williams Slam Obama Rights Nominee for Seeking Justice
Mumia Abu-Jamal has long been a living litmus test for whether people really want justice. Convicted in what even the Philadelphia Inquirer at the time was calling a terribly unfair trial over the alleged killing a white police officer, and sentenced to death by a racially biased and bloodthirsty “hanging” judge, Albert Sabo, Abu-Jamal spent 30 years on Philadelphia’s death row, always in solitary confinement, until a federal court, backed by the US Supreme Court, finally vacated the sentence, switching it to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
When the court tossed out Abu-Jamal’s death sentence, the reasons given were faulty jury instructions by the judge and a flawed jury sentencing form that the federal court believed could have led jurors to mistakenly believe that they could not individually oppose the death penalty, but would have to unanimously agree to oppose it. (In fact the opposite is true: any one juror in a death penalty sentencing can block execution by opposing the sentence, while death can only by imposed by a unanimous vote of the jury.)
This was an important ruling that upheld the "integrity" (such as it is) of the capital punishment system. It didn’t correct for the three decades that Abu-Jamal spent, wrongfully and unconstitutionally, in the hell-hole of Pennsylvania’s Death Row, but it at least ended that cruel and unusual torment, substituting another -- life without parole.
Now one of the attorneys who helped craft the legal case that ultimately led to the lifting of that unconstitutional sentence, Philadelphia attorney Debe Adegbile, has been nominated by President Barack Obama to head the Civil Rights Division of the US Justice Department. Adegbile, on the merits, is an excellent choice for the post. A long-time civil rights litigator, well versed in the issues that the division is responsible for dealing with, he has also served with distinction as senior counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee.
But Adegbile's nomination has predictably aroused the wrath of the right-wing media and the pro-cop fanatics in Congress and elsewhere because of one thing he did, which was to volunteer to assist the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in developing its argument in federal court for overturning Abu-Jamal’s death sentence.
UPDATE: On Thursday, the Judiciary Committee, voting 10-8 along party lines, approved Adegbile's nomination. ignoring a belated attempt by the Fraternal Order of Police (an organization that hasn't met the brutal or corrupt cop it won't defend as a maligned "hero"), to get Maureen Faulkner, widow of the police officer Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing, to be able to testify against Adegbile. With the filibuster no longer available for stopping votes on nominees, it is likely Adegbile will be approved for the Civil Rights post.