Daniel Faulkner and Mumia Abu-Jamal

State drops death penalty for commentator Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia Abu-Jamal, the onetime radio journalist, activist and convicted killer whose planned jailhouse commentaries were dropped by NPR after an outcry 17 years ago, is off of death row. However, he’s likely to stay in prison the rest of his life, without the possibility of parole.  Abu-Jamal is now jailed at State Correctional Institution Mahanoy, west of Allentown in eastern Pennsylvania. Philadelphia’s district attorney, Seth Williams, said Dec. 7 [2011] the death penalty was a just punishment for killing a city policeman 30 years ago, but he wouldn’t prolong the legal struggle by asking again for execution. Twice the courts had ordered execution, and appeals saved him — to the relief of his partisans and to the outrage of those of Officer Daniel Faulkner.

With Abu-Jamal coming on, WRTI drops Pacifica

The prospect of radio commentaries by a controversial death-row inmate “accelerated” Temple University’s decision to pull Pacifica news off WRTI, the university said. In a memo to Pacifica News Director Julie Drizin, Temple Vice President for Public Relations George Ingram said he was canceling a half-hour news feed and the one-hour Democracy Now to make room for additional jazz and university-related programming. But he also said: “Quite frankly, the decision was accelerated by the news Democracy Now would air the Mumia Abu-Jamal radio commentaries. . .

Abu-Jamal sues NPR to force broadcast of commentaries

Death row inmate, journalist, and international cause celebre Mumia Abu-Jamal has filed a $2 million censorship lawsuit against NPR over the network’s 1994 decision not to air his commentaries recorded for All Things Considered. The suit, filed by Abu-Jamal and the Prison Radio Project in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., argues that NPR nixed the commentaries under pressure from Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), other members of Congress and the Fraternal Order of Police. In addition to seeking damages, Abu-Jamal asks the court to force NPR to air the essays on ATC and then turn over the tapes to him. NPR and the Prison Radio Project recorded 10 of Abu-Jamal’s essays in Pennsylvania’s Huntingdon prison in April 1994. He was convicted in 1982 of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.

Commentaries from prison nixed, but —

NPR’s decisions to air, and then not to air, Mumia Abu-Jamal’s death-row commentaries might yet take another turn. The network is committed to airing prisoners’ voices — perhaps Abu-Jamal’s, in a form different from the stand-alone commentaries originally planned, NPR Vice President Bill Buzenberg said Wednesday. “I see this as a decision to pull back” and “postpone,” he said. “We’ll make other editorial decisions down the road.”
The silence from prisons allows a public hysterical about crime to maintain its stereotyped image
of prisoners and not think about them as complex human beings, says Sussman. The NPR-distributed Fresh Air interview program, meanwhile, may hire an inmate commentator (separate story below).