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Who is Mumia Abu-Jamal?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2016
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Born Wesley Cook, Mumia Abu-Jamal took his first breath on 24 April 1954. He is a former Black Panther and journalist, who often moonlighted as a cab driver. Mumia Abu-Jamal is most famous for the murder of a police officer named Daniel Faulkner in 1981. Though he was convicted of murdering Faulkner, Mumia Abu-Jamal has maintained that he is innocent since his conviction.

Mumia Abu-Jamal was originally sentenced to death for the murder of Officer Faulkner. However, his sentence was overturned in December 2001, and a judge ordered repeat sentencing at the same time. He appealed that ruling, as did the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Since then, both sides have tried to make changes to his sentence.

Despite the fact that the murder occurred in Philadelphia, the Mumia Abu-Jamal case has garnered international attention. Supporters around the world steadfastly assert that he is innocent while human-rights activists oppose the death-penalty sentence. Many claim that the murder of Faulkner was a setup, asserting that Abu-Jamal was not given a fair trial. On the other hand, Abu-Jamal has many opponents, especially within the local Philadelphia area. They assert that Abu-Jamal received a fair trial, is guilty of murder, and deserves execution as mandated by Pennsylvania law.

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The murder of Faulkner occurred between 3 and 4 a.m. on 9 December 1981. Officer Daniel Faulkner is said to have initiated a routine traffic stop. Driving the car was Abu-Jamal's younger brother, William. According to the prosecuting attorney, Cook initiated a physical altercation with Faulkner, who in turn struggled with Cook, attempting to subdue him. Seeing the altercation, Abu-Jamal is said to have emerged from nearby, shooting Faulkner in the back.

Though Faulkner had been wounded in the battle, he was conscious enough to return fire; he shot Abu-Jamal and wounded him. Seeking a closer position, Abu-Jamal is said to have moved to within closer range of Faulkner, firing several shots from this position. One bullet hit Faulkner in the face and led to his death. Additional police officers arrived, having been summoned by Faulkner for help in the traffic stop. They arrested Mumia Abu-Jamal and took him to jail, taking him to the hospital for medical treatment on the way.

The Faulkner murder case has long been rife with controversy and inconsistencies. For example, some witnesses state that they heard Mumia Abu-Jamal confess at a time that other witnesses claim he was unconscious. Many supporters believe he was set up or framed because of his political activism. However, there seem to be just as many individuals who believe he is simply guilty as charged.

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