PHILADELPHIA — Supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a 66-year-old political journalist and former Black Panther convicted in the 1981 killing of a Philadelphia police officer, say he has COVID-19. The activists rallied together in front of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office Saturday afternoon.
Over 30 people congregated outside 3 Penn Square, across from Philadelphia’s city hall, as they renewed their calls for Abu-Jamal’s release. Some of them held signs that read “Release Mumia Now!” and “Innocent with COVID symptoms.” The group played Reggae music through speakers as passing cars honked in support.
Rally organizers announced the gathering via Twitter on Saturday morning. Penn GSE professor Krystal Strong shared a flyer and called for “immediate decarceration” of “elders and medically vulnerable community members.”
Abu-Jamal’s family says prison officials deny rumors of a COVID-19 diagnosis, however, the family says he experiences shortness of breath as well as chest pains.
Abu-Jamal was convicted and sentenced to death in 1982 for the 1981 slaying of Daniel Faulkner, a 25-year-old Philadelphia police officer. Activists and critics of the trial have alleged constitutional failings, hidden evidence, and racism judges. The Faulkner family believes Abu-Jamal’s trial was fair and just, and say he was the man who killed officer Faulkner.
Faulkner was fatally shot in the back and face shortly after conducting a traffic stop on Abu-Jamal’s younger brother, William Cook. Cook and Faulkner became engaged in a physical altercation and a struggle ensued.
Prosecutors say Abu-Jamal emerged from a nearby parking lot and shot Faulkner in the back, before standing over him and shooting him in the face execution-style. Abu-Jamal was shot once in the stomach by Faulkner’s gun. A gun owned by Abu-Jamal fell near his body.
The defense maintained Abu-Jamal’s claim of innocence, alleging unreliability from prosecutorial witnesses and mentioning alternate theories of what could’ve happened at the scene. Defense witnesses spoke of a “running man” wearing a camouflage jacket. Forensics experts have also claimed the bullets that killed Faulkner couldn’t have been fired from Abu-Jamal’s gun.
Abu-Jamal has claimed his past legal team was ineffective and has filed multiple appeals, the most recent being in 2019.
In 2011, Abu-Jamal’s sentence was commuted to life without parole after former District Attorney Seth Williams instructed his office to no longer seek the death penalty in his case.
Abu-Jamal is currently housed at the Mahanoy State Correctional Institution in Schuylkill County.