In California last Tuesday, Maureen Faulkner’s telephone began ringing at 6:30 a.m. When she looked down and saw the instant onslaught of calls from the 215 and 610 area codes, she knew they would bring bad news. After 30 years, she’s grown accustomed to getting bad news by phone.
Hugh Burns, a good friend and tireless advocate from the appellate division of the District Attorney’s Office, was the one to finally tell her that the U.S. Supreme Court had cleared the way for the man who killed Police Office Daniel Faulkner to receive a new sentencing trial. Prosecutors can take on another sentencing hearing in the hopes of again winning a death sentence against Mumia Abu-Jamal, or close the case and allow him to serve life in prison without the possibility of parole.
While the decision will technically be made by District Attorney Seth Williams, he has always promised to be deferential to Maureen’s wishes. No one can deny that she’s earned that right – the right to put an end to the jarring early-morning interruptions, the first of which she answered at 6236 Harley St., at 4 a.m. on Dec. 9, 1981.
After Abu-Jamal was convicted and sentenced to death for Faulkner’s murder, there was relative peace for a few years. Maureen moved west, while her husband’s killer became a cause celebre.
A turning point came in 1991, when the phone rang with the news that the Yale Law Journal had printed an essay written by Abu-Jamal. The following year, it rang again, this time bringing word of Pacifica Radio Network’s decision to air his social commentaries. In the spring of 1995, more bad news by phone: Addison Wesley was publishing the first of Abu-Jamal’s many books.
Maureen took none of these insults lying down. In ’95, she hired an airplane – like those she’d often seen passing over the Shore – to fly a banner around the publisher announcing that they were supporting a cop killer.
When her phone rang Aug. 9, 1995, it was to alert her to a full-page ad in the New York Times, wherein a group of celebrities – including Alec Baldwin, Danny Glover, Molly Ivins, Spike Lee, Michael Stipe, Joanne Woodward, and dozens more – lent their support to her husband’s killer.