Daniel M. Filler, professor and senior associate dean of academic and faculty affairs, discussed recent developments in the high profile case of Mumia Abu Jamal on KYW-TV CBS 3’s Newsmakers program on Dec. 11.
Filler said Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams’ recent decision not to seek the death penalty against Jamal may deny a measure of closure to the family of slain Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, but that prosecutors faced enormous hurdles for obtaining a death sentence.
Williams announced on Dec. 7 that he would not seek the death penalty for Jamal, who was convicted of killing police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981. The announcement ended a 30-year legal battle over Jamal’s sentence. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in 2008 overturned the death sentence imposed following Jamal’s 1982 conviction and upheld its ruling in April. Facing a tight deadline for deciding to seek the death penalty once more, Williams said he would allow Jamal to remain in prison for life.
Filler told Newsmakers host Pat Ciarrocchi that juries in Philadelphia and elsewhere are deeply ambivalent about the death penalty, in significant part due to concerns about the fairness of the legal system.
Jamal’s sentence, like other death-penalty cases, elevated those concerns, Filler said.
“I’m not sure discomfort with the sentence was about guilt or innocence,” he said. “I think that Mumia was an individual who managed to tell his story very well to the public. And the public in America and around the world became very captivated by it, and it became a story about fairness or unfairness in the justice system.”