Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers player who famously took a knee during the national anthem as a protest against racial injustice, called Monday for the immediate release of Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted in the 1981 shooting death of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.
He contended that Abu-Jamal, 66, was “framed” in the killing of Faulkner by a racist police department.
“We’re in the midst of a movement that says ‘Black Lives Matter.’ And if that’s truly the case, then it means that Mumia’s life and legacy must matter,” Kaepernick said in a video statement played during a virtual news conference held by supporters of Abu-Jamal.
“Free Mumia,” Kaepernick urged.
Joining him in calling for Abu-Jamal’s release Monday were Pam Africa, leader of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal and a MOVE member; Johanna Fernandez, associate professor of history at Baruch College in New York and a member of the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home; and others.
Africa called Abu-Jamal’s conviction “a case of judicial, prosecutorial, and police misconduct.” She urged his supporters to demand that Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner help exonerate Abu-Jamal as he has done for others he has said were wrongly convicted of murder.
Jane Roh, Krasner’s spokesperson, said afterward that she would not reply to “secondhand comments” made by others.
Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther, taxi driver, and radio reporter, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in the Dec. 9, 1981 shooting death of Faulkner, 25, in Center City.
Abu-Jamal, who was driving a cab, was accused of shooting Faulkner about 4 a.m. at 13th and Locust Streets after seeing the officer scuffle with Abu-Jamal’s brother, William Cook, after stopping Cook for a traffic violation. His supporters contend that Abu-Jamal is innocent, certain witnesses didn’t get to testify and that police suppressed evidence favorable to his case.
Appellate courts throughout the years have upheld Abu-Jamal’s conviction. In 2011, then-District Attorney Seth Williams announced that prosecutors would no longer fight Abu-Jamal’s attempt to overturn his death sentence and agreed to a life prison term.
Faulkner’s widow, Maureen, who has since remarried, and her husband, Paul Palkovic, said Monday that they would be willing to talk to Kaepernick about the facts in the case. “I’ll be more than happy to talk to Mr. Kaepernick to ease his concerns,” she said.
“It’s the same thing they’ve been doing for 40 years," Palkovic said of the allegations of misconduct by Abu-Jamal supporters. “Lies, rehashing the same stuff.”
Abu-Jamal’s case is currently before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which in February agreed to take up a petition filed last year by Maureen Faulkner to determine whether Krasner’s office has a conflict in its continued handling of appeals by Abu-Jamal. She is asking for the court to direct the state Attorney General’s Office to handle the appeals instead.