Recently convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal delivered the commencement address to about two dozen students at Goddard College, a progressive liberal arts school in Vermont. Abu-Jamal spoke via telephone from a State Correctional Institution, reported the Pennsylvania Independent.
Abu-Jamal’s path to a life sentence in a Pennsylvania prison began during the early morning hours of Dec. 9, 1981, when his brother was stopped by Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. The traffic stop turned violent when Abu-Jamal approached from across the street, shot Faulkner in the back and then unloaded four more bullets into his wounded victim, one into his head.
Faulkner managed to shoot Abu-Jamal, leaving him slumped at the crime scene. A jury convicted him, and he was sentenced to die, but he was spared from death row when an appeals court found the jury was improperly instructed.
The college’s decision troubled Pennsylvania Corrections Secretary John Wetzel, but even he admitted inmates have a constitutional right to access phones.
“While we do not support or endorse this specific type of activity, we cannot prohibit it from happening,” he said in a statement issued before the commencement speech.
Legislation sponsored by state Rep. Mike Vereb, R-Montgomery, could prevent something like Abu-Jamal’s speech from happening again. The legislation would allow the victim of a crime or prosecutors acting on the victim’s behalf to file a civil action to stop conduct from an offender that causes severe mental anguish. A judge would have the power to grant injunctive relief.
“We hope to never use this law,” Vereb said. “We hope that the actual people that sit in prison recognize that they themselves are there to heal, not tear the scabs off the wounds of our victims some 30 years later.”
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