Justices turn down request to replace Abu-Jamal prosecutors

Philadelphia city prosecutors can continue to handle the Mumia Abu-Jamal's appeals despite opposition from the widow of the city police officer Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing, the state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

A divided court denied the request by Maureen Faulkner, the widow of slain Officer Daniel Faulkner, to disqualify the city district attorney's office from continuing to work on the matter. She sought to have the attorney general's office appointed to take over the prosecution.

Maureen Faulkner argued that District Attorney Larry Krasner and his aides have links to Abu-Jamal’s case that should have disqualified them and that the office has not handled the case with due vigor. Krasner, a Democrat, has denied any substantial conflict exists.

Abu-Jamal is serving life for the shooting death of Faulkner during a traffic stop in 1981, and in the intervening decades, his claims of being unfairly convicted have drawn fervent supporters, both in the United States and internationally.

Since Abu-Jamal's conviction, wrote Justice Kevin Dougherty, the case has "undergone a tortuous and infamous history spanning four decades and involving numerous appeals in state and federal courts."

A judge appointed by the high court to look into the matter found no evidence the city prosecutor's office won't continue to defend Abu-Jamal's conviction. Krasner told the appointed special master, Judge John Cleland, that he thinks Abu-Jamal is guilty of the killing.

Justice Sallie Mundy, the only judge who would have granted Maureen Faulkner's request, said there is reason to conclude Krasner and his office are unable to handle the matter with impartiality. She would have replaced them with the attorney general's office.

"This would allow the case to proceed free from the appearance of impropriety that undermines our citizenry’s faith in the legal system," Mundy wrote.

Krasner's spokesperson declined comment on the Supreme Court decision.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 President John McNesby said in a statement, "We're disappointed by the Court's recent opinion, but we've suffered setbacks in this case in the past and we'll continue to fight for Maureen, the entire Faulkner family and Philadelphia police officers. We are on the right side of justice in this case and we believe convicted, cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal should remain in prison for the rest of his life."

Widow Maureen Faulkner released the following statement, "It is a sad day for Philadelphia, for the citizens of Pennsylvania, and for anyone who believes in justice. When our legal system has gone off its rails, we are ultimately supposed to look to the Supreme Court to restore legal integrity, order, and sanity. That didn’t happen today. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania knows Larry Krasner and others in the DA’s office have profound legal conflicts of interest and an overt bias in favor of my husband’s killer. We demonstrated each of those to them beyond any doubt. But three justices chose to look the other way. That’s the tragedy for today. It will undoubtedly fuel greater tragedies for victims of violent crime in the future.While I will continue my fight for Danny, we are now without legitimate legal representation for future appeals."