Senator Calls Winning Constitutional Case on the Death Penalty ‘Undermining Justice’
Pennsylvania Senator Republican Pat Toomey last week went before the whole US Senate to oppose the nomination by President Obama of Debo Adegbile, former head of the litigation department of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. In his speech, Toomey tried to argue that Adegbile is unfit for the job because he supervised the Legal Defense Fund’s role in helping with the appeal in federal court of the death sentence of Philadelphia journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal -- an appeal that ended up vacating that sentence, and that was left standing by the US Supreme Court.
Toomey’s position -- that Adegbile had “undermined the justice system” by filing that appeal claiming that Abu-Jamal’s death sentence had been unconstitutional -- is ludicrous on its face. For one thing, the actual argument that led to the vacating of the death sentence was developed and presented in court by attorney Judith Ritter as lead counsel. She is not affiliated with the Legal Defense Fund. Furthermore, given that the appeal was successful in federal court, and then upheld on appeal by a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, and given that the US Supreme Court, asked to reverse that ruling by Philadelphia’s District Attorney and the Pennsylvania Attorney General, refused to hear the case, thereby affirming it -- to say that Adegbile, whatever role he played in the case, had somehow “undermined justice” is the same as saying that a Federal District Judge, an Appellate Court panel, and the Supreme Court all “undermined justice.”
That’s a pretty heavy indictment, even for a self-styled “Tea Party” senator!
But Pennsylvania’s junior senator didn’t stop there.
In his determined effort to pander to the wishes of Pennsylvania’s politically powerful police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, which has for years been pushing for Abu-Jamal’s execution following his 1982 conviction for the murder of white Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, and continues to fume now that he is now “just” serving a sentence of life without chance of parole, Toomey recited many of the same tired falsehoods trotted out regularly by the FOP. He said that the 1982 trial of Abu-Jamal had “conclusively proved” that he had ruthlessly shot Officer Faulkner, first shooting the officer in the back and then standing over the “prone and helpless” officer as he lay on the ground and “pumping four more bullets into him and one in the face which killed him.”