Monday, March 31, 2008

Martino for Mumia

Well, the locals'll really be interested in this one.

For longer than it hasn't, the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal -- the Philly journalist-cum-cabbie on long on Pennsylvania's death row for the 1981 shooting of a hometown cop, Ofc. Daniel Faulkner -- has been a heated topic 'round these parts... and far beyond.

Every so often, the local news flares up with the latest face-off between the slain officer's legion of supporters -- led by Faulkner's widow, Maureen -- and the curious catch-all of celebrities, death-penalty opponents and the French (who named a street for Abu-Jamal in a Paris suburb) who've in turns either alleged that the driver-scribe (born Wesley Cook) was framed, or simply protested the capital sentence handed down at a 1982 trial. In the quarter-century since, the case has wended its way through scores of appeals in both state and federal courts.

From his cell in a state prison, the target of Maureen Faulkner's recent book (the bluntly-titled Murdered by Mumia) has backed the movement in his name, recording commentaries, delivering a college commencement speech by videotape, even being invited to speak on NPR until protests forced the plan's cancellation in 1994.

In the case's latest strange twist, after a three-judge panel of Philly's Federal appeals court ruled last week that Abu-Jamal couldn't be put to death without a new sentencing hearing -- lacking which he'd simply serve a life sentence -- a statement praising the decision was prominently placed in the following day's editions of the Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano by the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Renato Martino.

CNS reports:
A U.S. appeals court decision to overturn the death sentence of Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted of killing a police officer in 1981, is a victory for human life, said Cardinal Renato Martino....

In an interview published on the front page of the Vatican newspaper... March 28, Cardinal Martino said: "Justice is not accomplished by punishing with another crime. For this reason, every death sentence not carried out is a victory for man and for life."

Cardinal Martino said the basis of all human rights is the right to life.

"Therefore, even the criminal who committed a crime has the right to live" and to have the possibility to make amends for his crime and to be rehabilitated, he said.

Pope Benedict XVI publicly has expressed his opposition to the death penalty on several occasions, the cardinal said.

"The death penalty does not fit into the concept of justice because the defense of life -- which goes from conception to natural death -- is preferred in every way by the Holy See," which is why the Vatican supports initiatives to abolish the death penalty, he said.
In the interview, the Italian cardinal reiterated the Holy See's support for the UN's proposed global moratorium on capital punishment, which has been abolished in 135 countries worldwide.

A recent set of stats reported that, in 2006, "91 per cent of all known executions took place in six countries: China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan and the USA." Last week, however, for the first time since 1982 -- six years after the death penalty was reinstated on these shores -- the States marked six months without an execution.