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Powerful story, but not a true one

Senator and Police Union Use a Widow's False Memory to Stir Up Hatred for Imprisoned Man and for Obama Nominee

 

Maureen Faulkner, widowed as a young wife by the shooting death of her husband, Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, has spent the over 32 years since his death on a crusade, first to have the man convicted of his death, Mumia Abu-Jamal, executed, and then, since the overturning of his death sentence on Constitutional grounds, trying to ensure that he remains a pariah in prison.

She has been assisted in her quest by a labor organization and political lobby, the Fraternal Order of Police, which has helped her to widely publicize her claims, often factually challenged, that Abu-Jamal was fairly tried and found guilty of murder, and that he is, moreover, a monster deserving the worst that the US penal system can dish out.

One of the FOP's favorite claims in that campaign of vilification is a story that the widow Faulkner also tells at every opportunity, namely that during the early days of the 1982 murder trial, when the prosecutor held up the slain officer's bloody shirt to display the bullet holes in it, Abu-Jamal, seated at the defense table, turned around and "smiled at me."

It is, to be sure, a disturbing image.

It is also not possible to have occurred.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), rejected Civil Right Division nominee Debo Adegbile,Maureen Faulkner and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA)Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), rejected Civil Right Division nominee Debo Adegbile,Maureen Faulkner and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA)

 

As I discovered in reviewing the trial transcripts of that day (Commonwealth of PA v. Mumia Abu Jamal, June 26, 1982), and later reported in my book on the case (Killing Time: An Investigation into the Death Penalty Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, Common Courage Press, 2003), Abu-Jamal had been removed by Judge Albert Sabo from the courtroom at the start of the day before the presentation of evidence, and was not returned to the courtroom until well after the shirt had been displayed to the jury.

The first time Faulkner told that story portraying a cruel and uncaring killer smiling at her pain was during an interview by a reporter writing a feature on the case in the Washington Post, titled "Condemned to Silence? Does a Man Lose His Right to Write if he Kills a Cop? A Widow Says Yes," which ran on May 18, 1995.

Now it's possible that Faulkner, 13 years after the trial and 13 years into her campaign of vengeance for her loss, may have imagined the scene. Such things are common. As Jerry Lembcke has documented in his book Spitting Image, although there is not one newspaper photo showing Anti-Vietnam War protesters spitting on a returning soldier from that decade-long conflict, thousands of veterans of the Indochina War claim, with evident sincerity, that they were spat on, often in situations that could not have occurred, such as returning to a civilian airfield (soldiers were flown home in commercial planes but always landed at military airfields, where no protesters could have been present to expectorate on them).

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