Maureen Faulkner is asking Pennsylvania’s highest court to remove District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office from the case involving her husband’s killer, Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Her attorney, George Bochetto, on Nov. 12 filed what’s known as a King’s Bench Petition in state Supreme Court in an attempt to transfer control of Abu-Jamal’s case to the state Attorney General due to alleged conflicts of interest in Krasner’s office
“We have a district attorney who I believe is confusing criminal justice reform for criminal justice anarchy,” Bochetto said, speaking at a news conference at Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 in the Far Northeast.
The DA’s Office is reviewing the petition, spokesperson Jane Roh said.
Abu-Jamal was sentenced to death after a jury convicted him of fatally shooting police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981 in Center City. His sentence was downgraded to life in prison in 2011.
He is seeking his fifth hearing under the Post-Conviction Relief Act, which could lead to a new trial or resentencing. Krasner’s office did not argue against having a hearing on what Abu-Jamal’s attorneys have characterized as new evidence recently discovered in the case.
“Mumia could be free by Christmas on the streets,” Bochetto said, eliciting shouts of “no” from a packed room at the FOP. “That’s how close we are. It can happen any moment.”
Faulkner thanked supporters and criticized Krasner as a “progressive defense attorney” who doesn’t understand how crime impacts victims.
“This is it,” she said. “We are at the end of our line with this case.”
Faulkner’s attorneys argue in the King’s Bench Petition that at least two employees in the DA’s Office have ties to Abu-Jamal. Paul George, a supervisor in Krasner’s office, represented Abu-Jamal in the past, and employee Jody Dodd has been involved in efforts to free him, according to the petition.
It also mentions an article where Krasner is quoted as calling previous city prosecutors “war criminals,” and references social media posts made by others connected to Krasner.
Roh told the Northeast Times that George has always been screened from the Abu-Jamal case, and a different supervisor is overseeing the appeals process. In the King’s Bench Petition, Faulkner’s attorneys argue that it is not possible to fully remove George from the case.
In an October court filing, the DA’s Office said there are no conflicts of interest. It also said George and Dodd are not involved in Abu-Jamal’s case in any way.
Faulkner filed a motion on her own to intervene in the case in September, shortly after the DA’s Office said it would not oppose Abu-Jamal’s application for a new hearing. It was denied in Superior Court.
Bochetto said the King’s Bench Petition carries more legal weight. He even suggested he would be willing to take the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court if the state court decides not to hear the petition.
“We will not rest until we get this issue heard,” Bochetto said.
Standing next to Bochetto and Faulkner at the news conference was Joe McGill, the original prosecutor in the Abu-Jamal case. Bochetto said no one from the DA’s Office reached out to McGill after the discovery of the new evidence, which includes notes written by McGill.
McGill is a “critical witness” for Faulkner’s petition, Bochetto said, and he did not speak publicly on the advice of Faulkner’s legal team.
However, in an affidavit attached to the King’s Bench Petition, McGill refutes claims made by Abu-Jamal’s attorneys concerning alleged misconduct involving jury selection and witness testimony.
FOP Lodge 5 President John McNesby and attorney Jack O’Neill, who ran for DA as a Democrat in the 2017 primary, also spoke at the Nov. 12 announcement. Councilman At-Large Al Taubenberger was in attendance.
“If this guy gets out of prison, it’s going to be a free ticket for every cop killer in the country,” McNesby told the crowd of Faulkner supporters. ••
Jack Tomczuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.