Mumia Abu-Jamal (born Wesley Cook April 24, 1954) is a convicted murderer who was sentenced to death in 1982 for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. His sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment without parole.
Abu-Jamal became involved in black nationalism in his youth and was a member of the Black Panther Party until October 1970, after which he became a radio journalist, eventually becoming president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. On December 9, 1981, Faulkner was fatally shot while conducting a routine traffic stop of Abu-Jamal’s brother, William Cook. Abu-Jamal was found at the scene with a bullet wound from Faulkner’s gun and his own discharged revolver beside him. He was arrested and charged with Faulkner’s murder.
Prosecution witnesses identified Abu-Jamal as the shooter and two testified that he had confessed to shooting Faulkner. A jury convicted Abu-Jamal on all counts and sentenced him to death. He spent the next 30 years on death row. After a succession of all possible appeals by Abu-Jamal were exhausted, his conviction was upheld but his death sentence vacated. He was resentenced to life in prison without parole. District Attorney Seth Williams later stated that no further appeals would be filed in pursuit of the death penalty.
Activists, celebrities, and liberal groups have criticized the fairness of Abu-Jamal’s trial, professed his innocence, and opposed his death sentence. The Faulkner family, public authorities, police organizations, and conservative groups have maintained that Abu-Jamal’s trial was fair, his guilt undeniable, and his death sentence appropriate. Once described as “perhaps the world’s best known death-row inmate” by The New York Times, during his imprisonment Abu-Jamal has published books and commentaries on social and political issues, including Live from Death Row (1995).