Mumia Abu-Jamal Launches Appeal, Maintains Innocence

New lawyers for former journalist and Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal have released the first detailed accounts from the death-row inmate of the events surrounding the 1981 killing of a police officer.

The attorneys disclosed Abu-Jamal's description of the shooting Friday as they launched their defense in his appeal.

While Abu-Jamal's jailhouse writings about the justice system have brought his cause widespread attention, he has said little about the death of Officer Daniel Faulkner.

"I did not shoot Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. I had nothing to do with the killing of Officer Faulkner. I am innocent," Abu-Jamal said in a statement taken Thursday at a state prison in Greene County.

Abu-Jamal said he did not testify at his 1982 trial because his rights were denied throughout the proceeding. Abu-Jamal said his former attorney had told him not to testify during the appeals process.

"Now for the first time, I have been given an opportunity to tell what happened to me in the early morning hours of December 9, 1981," Abu-Jamal said.

His statement was released by Abu-Jamal's new legal team, which took over the case last month. A judge has stayed Abu-Jamal's execution as his appeal continues.

Faulkner, 25, was found shot at close range in the face, and Abu-Jamal was lying nearby, wounded by a bullet from Faulkner's gun. Abu-Jamal's gun, with five spent shells, was also found.

Abu-Jamal's attorneys also released a 1999 affidavit Friday from a man who said that he and another person shot Faulkner after they were hired to kill him.

"The affidavit ... is so clearly ridiculous that it should be obvious to any fair-minded person that it is a complete fabrication," said Cathie Abookire, spokeswoman for Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham.

A former radio reporter, Abu-Jamal has maintained that he was framed by police and that his defense was undermined by an incompetent trial attorney.

U.S. District Judge William H. Yohn Jr. granted Abu-Jamal's request in March for new counsel.

Yohn has stayed Abu-Jamal's execution while he decides whether to conduct new evidentiary hearings or decide the appeal based on the voluminous records of Abu-Jamal's trial and appeals in the state courts.

At issue is whether Abu-Jamal's constitutional rights were violated during his 1982 trial and at a 1995 state post-conviction appeal.