Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pennsylvania Governor signs bill aimed at silencing Mumia Abu-Jamal

When you have a voice that travels around the world people will do all they can to stop you from speaking.  Some people don’t take it kindly when a convicted murder delivers a commencement speech.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has signed a new law to silence Mumia Abu-Jamal. Abu-Jamal was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1981 shooting of a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania police officer. Once known as the voice from death row, Abu-Jamal’s sentence was commuted to life without parole in 2013.

The new law, signed on Tuesday, allows victims of violent crimes to sue the offender for “conduct which perpetuates the continuing effect of the crime on the victim.”

The law was fast-tracked after Abu-Jamal delivered a commencement address at Goddard College in Vermont. Abu-Jamal obtained a bachelor degree from Goddard while behind bars in 1996.  The law allows victims and prosecutors to sue felons in prison or after they have completed their sentence for conduct that the law says “perpetuates the continuing effect of the crime on the victim”.

Corbett said the law is intended to mute the “obscene celebrity” status of convicts like Abu-Jamal, the Associated Press reported. Corbett signed the bill within footsteps of where Daniel Faulkner was killed. Faulkner is the officer Abu-Jamal was convicted of murdering.

“The law was inspired by the excesses and pious hypocrisy of one particular killer,” Corbett said.

Corbett may find it difficult to curb Abu-Jamal’s celebrity status.  The administration and student body at Goddard College embraced his speech for reasons some can’t understand.  They believe in his innocence.  They are moved by his message behind prison walls.  They are inspired by his humility.

None of that will go away.

“Freedom was taken away when he murdered a police officer in the line of duty,” Maureen Faulkner, the widow of Daniel Faulkner, told Fox News. “It seems like our justice system allows murderers to continue to have a voice over the public airwaves and at college commencement. It’s despicable,”

Is that true? Can one forfeit their Constitutional right to freedom of speech by virtue of being incarcerated?  Is that stated in the Constitution, or do we allow for a provision that grants people the right to punish people for garnering support and popularity?

“Essentially, any action by an inmate or former offender that could cause ‘mental anguish’ could be banned by a judge,” Reggie Shuford, Pennsylvania ALCU director, said in a statement to the Associated Press.  “That can’t pass constitutional muster under the First Amendment.”

Administrators at Goddard College aren’t happy that a law was passed due to their acceptance of Abu-Jamal.

“In essence this law is suggesting that people are not capable of making choices about what speech they will listen to and how they will react to that speech,” Samantha Kolber, a spokesperson for Goddard College, told the Patriot-News of Central PA .”That we wonder how libertarians and free-speech conservatives feel about this action, and we also speculate about how far this diminishment of free-speech rights will go.”

Prison Radio has vowed to continue to broadcast Abu-Jamal’s words. 

“Broadcasting Mumia Abu-Jamal's voice is the best antidote to the Right Wing Attack on the First Amendment,”said Noelle Hanrahan, producer of Prison Radio. (Link to interview with Hanrahan:

Hanrahan said Prison Radio has dozens of notable people ready to stand in for and read Abu-Jamal’s work if the District Attorney or Attorney General sues Abu-Jamal

Abu-Jamal has recorded over 3,000 essays, published seven books with two more to be released in 2015. He has three major broadcast and theatrical movies in which he is the subject. His work has been translated in nine languages.  Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary is currently airing on the STARZ Network.

I doubt if the threat of a lawsuit will stop Mumia Abu-Jamal.  Listen to what he has to say.

1 comment:

  1. You never posted in the article the number of the bill. HR 2533, “Revictimization Relief.” Names of the elected officials from Philly who signed this into law?