How would you feel if you were sentenced to death for a murder you did not commit? What if you did commit a murder? Would it be okay to be sentenced to death, or should you be sentenced to life in prison?
This is what happened in the Mumia Abu-Jamal case. Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981. There is much controversy on what actually happened during the 1981 murder of the police officer, due to unclear evidence. Looking at the history of the case may make you believe Mumia is innocent or guilty, or maybe you have no clue. The case is very controversial, but just remember, he is not the only person to go through something like this one. Similar cases have been made, present and past, so is there a solution? That is the question that has been going around from case to case, and person to person. However, the history of the Mumia Abu-Jamal case makes this a very controversial topic, and an issue that needs to be solved.
History Behind the Issue
On December 9, 1981 at 3:55 am, police officer David Faulkner conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle driven by Jamal’s younger brother, William Cook. Jamal was across the street, sitting in his taxi, while Cook and Faulkner became engaged in a physical fight. Then, Jamal ran across the street towards his brother’s car. At some point the police officer, Faulkner, was shot from behind in the face, while he shot Jamal in the stomach. Faulkner died on the scene, while Jamal was taken to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. When Jamal received treatment, he was arrested and charged for first degree murder of Officer Faulkner.
Then, in 1982 the case went to trial in Philadelphia, PA. The judge, Albo F. Sabo, agreed initially to allow Jamal’s request to represent himself, but was also warned he would take the right away if Jamal was disruptive. (To represent one’s self in court means to advocate for one’s self and not by lawyer.) Jamal then continued to act disruptive, and as warned by Sabo, his right to represent himself was taken away. Later that day, four eye witnesses of the incident spoke about what they saw during the murder of the Officer Faulkner. All said that they saw a man who looked like Jamal run from a car over to the Officer and shoot him. There were also defenses made for Jamal, in which was said that the witnesses were unreliable and Sonia Sanchez said Jamal is “viewed by the black community as a creative, articulate, peaceful, genial man.” In the end of the trial, the jury said he was guilty, and sentenced to death.
Jamal spent the next 30 years on death row, when on December 7, 2011, the District attorney of Philadelphia, Seth Williams, dropped the death penalty because Officer Faulkner’s widow claimed she did not want to have another trial along with the trauma involved. So instead, Jamal would be sentenced to life in prison without parole. (Parole meaning the release of a prisoner temporarily or permanently, before the sentence is completed, if one agrees to be on good behavior.
Death Row in the U.S
Mumia’s supporters claim that Mumia is innocent and was not the shooter. They say that there was another shooter at the scene who was riding in Mumia’s brother’s car, named Kenneth Freeman. Jamal’s lawyers claim that the original judge was racist and so was most of the jury who was selected. Also, many of Mumia’s friends and family say he would never kill someone, as he was a good person in character and beliefs.
The opposers of the case however say otherwise. They think that many are uninformed about the case and that the arguments made are all myths. Also, earlier in his life (around 14 years old) he was involved with the Black Panthers party, which leads people to think all he wanted to do was kill a cop.
While in prison, Jamal wrote many essays on his life on death row and published many columns in newspapers in Germany. He also was a regular commentator on Prison Radio, an online prison based radio station. He published other items as well such as a diary and autobiography of himself on death row.
Many think that Mumia should be freed from prison because he is innocent. Others think he has done so much good for many problems that are hard to discuss and are exclusive to a certain group of people. They think more people should hear what he has to say, but that won’t happen unless he is released or at least has parole.
There have been many cases similar to this. Whether it involves the death penalty, murder, or a bias jury, many say this one of the more controversial cases. The court says due to new laws of the Judicial system, states cannot decide on a death penalty case unless observed by the Federal courts.
Current Controversy Behind the Issue
This case is still very controversial today because of the issues still present surrounding the case such as the death penalty, life in prison, and racial juries. For example, the death penalty has became very controversial, some argue it is too extreme, while others argue that it is the only way to keep the rest of the Country safe. In Mumia’s case, he proved even with him being on death row, you can still influence others to good. Only 31 states in the U.S. allow the death penalty, while 17,833 people were sentenced to death as of December 31, 2010.
Also, Jamal has made awareness of the death penalty and why it could be a “wrong” practice as a punishment. He made normal people of the world be able to see what being on death’s row is like and how it affects you as a person. Many people in society fight over the death penalty and if it is a good or bad thing. Republicans (conservatives) tend to be more “pro”-capital punishment Democrats (liberals) tend to be more “anti”-capital punishment. Many people will never be on death row, but for those who are, it is important for the rest of the world to be able to see what it is like. Most of these people have committed a bad crime, but what if they didn’t and are falsely accused? Is that fair to do to them? Personally I do not like the death penalty. I think that people should be able to have a second chance in life. The worst punishment in my opinion should be life in prison without parole. I think people can see what they did wrong, and should have a chance to fix themselves. It is especially unfair if the person did not commit a federal crime, and is sentenced to death by a biased jury or is guilty but has nothing to prove it. To me, the death penalty is too extreme and should not be a punishment in any state or country.
Other topics are controversial like bias juries in court towards one side or another. Some say that racism is a thing of the past, however I think it still exists, just not as bad as it was before. There have been many racial court rulings in the past such as “Plessy vs. Ferguson,” otherwise known as “separate but equal.” There is no facts as if Mumia’s jury was racist towards him, but many say that is a reason why he was put on the death penalty when there was no evidence except for eye witnesses.
The death penalty can be carried out if any of the 41 federal crimes are commited such as genocide, treason, and multiple forms of murder. The U.S. Federal government and military can use 5 different methods of execution, such as: lethal injection, lethal gas, electrocution, firing squad and hanging.
How can this issue be solved?
The death penalty is certainly something that needs to be addressed because of its controversy over if it is ethical, and if it is performed on guilty or innocent people. 32 states have proposed new legislation for the death penalty. The Federal government also has a proposal called the “Thin Blue Line Act,” which would “expand the federal death penalty to include the killing of state and local police officers. States such as Nevada and Louisiana have proposals to abolish the death penalty completely.
I personally think there should be no death penalty, but at worst a torture penalty. If there is some how a wrongful crime that is very high up on the list, something needs to happen of a preventative measure. Something such as a genocide should have the maximum punishment, but not death for it is too extreme.
In Mumia Abu-Jamal’s case, I think he should have another chance. I think after all he has done to tell other people about his life on death row was something not many inmates chose to do. He talks about problems that not many people have the guts to talk about. He shows us how yes people can make mistakes, but people should be given a second chance to redeem themselves and learn from what they did, not just punished for their first action made. Mumia is a human just like the rest of us, and has family who love and care for him. We need to acknowledge what he has done for others, and know what he has struggled through to bring awareness of the issue.
Mumia has done a lot for advocating the death penalty and life on death row. I think it is time to seriously think about changing the rules of the death penalty and how it is carried out.
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