Some are painting Debo Adegbile, President Obama’s choice to be the new assistant U.S. attorney general for civil rights, as a modern day Atticus Finch of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” who defended a black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman.
Of course, the entire argument is based on a false premise, which is that opposition to Adegbile, former Associate Director of Litigation, NAACP, is due to his representation of an unpopular client (Mumia Abu-Jamal), which has nothing to do with anything.
Harold Jackson of Philly.com tweets,
— Harold Jackson (@harjerjac) March 16, 2014
“The history of American justice is filled with lawyers who took on unpopular clients in the name of the rule of law.”
Opposition was not due to Adegbile “going against popular opinion,” but his blatant political advocacy of an already-convicted killer.
Predictably, some supporters also say that Debo Adegbile was also not confirmed due to racism.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid “lashed out at Republicans in thinly veiled accusations of racism,” as reported by Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times.
Brentin Mock of ColorLines, wrote an article titled “Racism’s at Root of Adegbile Denial,” saying in part,
“The unstated reason for why they blocked Adegbile’s nomination…has to do with a conservative agenda that seeks to strip enforcement powers away from our civil rights legal protections.”
Tweeted by the Soros-funded Advancement Project, of course:
— Advancement Project (@adv_project) March 14, 2014
— Advancement Project (@adv_project) March 16, 2014
Mumia Abu Jamal himself, who has quite a large platform, said that those who rejected the confirmation “soiled their own Constitution…”
In 1982, after three hours of deliberations, a jury consisting of ten white people and two black people convicted leftist radical Mumia Abu-Jamal (whose birth name is Wesley Cook) for shooting Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner multiple times during a traffic stop, resulting in his death.
Abu-Jamal was a member of the Black Panther Party and an activist journalist working as a cab driver at the time of the shooting. Hospital security guard Priscilla Durham and police officer Garry Bell testified during the trial that Abu-Jamal confessed in the hospital by saying, “I shot the motherf**ker, and I hope the motherf**ker dies.”
As reported by Peter Roff at US News,
“His conviction has been appealed repeatedly and his sentence commuted to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole after the federal courts determined the jury in the original case had been improperly instructed.”
- 1981, December 9: Faulkner shot and killed.
- 1982, June 17 – July 3: Original trial of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Convicted and sentenced to death.
- 1989, March 6: Supreme Court of Pennsylvania considers and denies the appeal of the sentence.
- 1990, October 1: Supreme Court of the United States denies petition for writ of certiorari.
- 1995, June 1: Death warrant signed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge. Suspended pending review.
- 1995–6: Post-conviction review hearings.
- 1998: Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled unanimously that all issues were without merit.
- 1999, October 4: Supreme Court of the United States denied a petition for certiorari against that decision.
- 1999, October 13: Second death warrant signed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge. It was stayed while Abu-Jamal sought habeas corpus review.
- 2001, December 18: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania upheld the conviction but voided the sentence of death. Both parties appealed.
- 2005, December 6: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit admitted four issues for appeal of the ruling of the District Court.
- 2008, March 27: Third Circuit Court upholds decision of the District Court by a 2–1 majority.
- 2008, July 22: Third Circuit Court denies petition to rehear.
- 2009, April 6: United States Supreme Court denies petition to rehear.
Abu-Jamal’s life sentence was again affirmed by a state appellate court panel in July, 2013.
The real reason for opposition to Debo Adegbile
In a must-read OpEd for the Wall Street Journal Senator Pat Toomey and District Attorney of the city of Philadelphia Rufus Seth Williams wrote in part,
“Let there be no mistake. Our concern is not based on the fact that Mr. Adegbile acted as an attorney for a criminal defendant. The right to counsel is a fundamental part of America’s criminal justice system, and no lawyer should be faulted for the crimes of his clients. But it is one thing to provide legal representation and quite another to seize on a case and turn it into a political platform from which to launch an extreme attack on the justice system.”
Stating the crux of their objection, Toomey and Williams write,
“Under Mr. Adegbile’s leadership and through rallies, protests and a media campaign, the Legal Defense Fund actively fanned the racial firestorm. In a news release issued when it took over as Abu-Jamal’s counsel, the Legal Defense Fund proclaimed that Abu-Jamal was ‘a symbol of the racial injustices of the death penalty.'”
As reported by Michael Smerconish for the Daily Beast, Joe McGill, the prosecutor in the original 1982 trial said of the repeated appeals and activism on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal ,
“Yes, I understand the right for defense to fight to the last possible moment when you have such a serious sentence. I understand that and that’s the way it should be. However, this case is absolutely definite in its facts, in its evidence, and in the decision of the jury.”
Earlier this month, Senator Ted Cruz spoke against the nomination of Debo Adegbile, whose support of Mumia Abu-Jamal, he said, was “pure advocacy.” President Obama denounced the Senate defeat of Debo Adegbile, calling it “a travesty.”
Watch Ted Cruz’s comments here: