PHILADELPHIA – The widow of a police officer slain almost four decades ago was ordered removed from a courtroom after protesting a judge's decision to extend the appeal hearing of former death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Maureen Faulkner had flown in from California, hoping for an end to the long series of appeals by the former Black Panther convicted of the 1981 murder of Philadelphia officer Daniel Faulkner.
Defense attorneys are seeking to have Abu-Jamal's previous appeals vacated so they can file a new appeal, arguing that a state Supreme Court justice should have recused himself from the case. When Justice Ronald Castile was Philadelphia's district attorney, his office succeeded in getting the high court to uphold Abu-Jamal's conviction.
Common Pleas Court Judge Leon Tucker on Monday granted a 30-day extension to defense attorneys who say they are trying to recover a document that they hope will support their case. Tucker scheduled another hearing for Dec. 3.
The paper reports that Faulkner stood up and cried out to the judge, saying with her voice breaking "With all due respect, your honor! I have another 30 days that I have to go through this pain and suffering?"
As sheriff's officers pulled at the sleeve of her sweater and pleaded with her to calm down, she continued to protest and was then ordered removed. As she was escorted out, she said "Thirty-eight years! This is wrong!"
After she was removed, the judge said the court was "sensitive to both sides" but wasn't going to "rush to judgment." He said "no matter how long it takes, this court is going to do the right thing."
Outside, the paper reported, Faulkner apologized and said "My emotions got the best of me. I mean, when is this case going to end for us?"
Abu-Jamal spent 29 years on death row following his conviction in the 1981 murder of white Philadelphia police Officer Daniel Faulkner. Despite decades of appeals, his conviction has never been overturned, but in 2008, a federal appeals court threw out his death sentence, citing flawed jury instructions. Prosecutors agreed in 2011 to reduce his sentence to life without parole. In 2012, the state Supreme Court rejected his final appeal, which involved forensic evidence in the racially charged case.
Abu-Jamal has maintained his innocence and has become a symbol for groups seeking changes in the criminal justice system. More than a dozen demonstrators on both sides of the case protested outside the hearing.
Information from: The Philadelphia Inquirer, http://www.inquirer.com