Head Strong: Maureen Faulkner's never-ending battle

Maureen Faulkner attending the premiere here last year of a movie about the Abu-Jamal case.
Maureen Faulkner attending the premiere here last year of a movie about the Abu-Jamal case. (STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer)

After yet another court setback, she must push on to win justice for her husband.

Posted: May 01, 2011

'Till death do us part."

Maureen Faulkner accepts no such limitation on her marital vow, which she recited to her husband, Danny, on Nov. 8, 1980. She knew him for only 913 days, 396 of which they were married, but she views this as an infinite commitment. And when District Attorney Seth Williams called her with bad news Tuesday, she reaffirmed that commitment.

She will never forget the knock on the door at about 4 a.m. on Dec. 9, 1981, and hearing the news that her husband, Police Officer Danny Faulkner, had been shot.

A chain reaction of misery ensued.

Her parents, Annamae and Jim Foley, were then awakened with the news, as were her brothers. Danny's father, Thomas, a trolley operator, died when Danny was just 10, but his mother, Mary, who raised seven children on her own, was then living with Danny's brother Kenny.

Kenny answered the phone, and when told of his brother's shooting, asked, "Where?"

"In the face," was the reply, and Kenny then heard a shriek. He realized that his mother had picked up an extension.

The calls continued.

Sister Joanne was told, so, too, brothers Thomas Jr., Joseph, Lawrence, and Patrick. Patrick knew only that Danny had been shot, but, driving to Thomas Jefferson Hospital, he heard on KYW a report on the passing of a cop. He knew it was his kid brother.

Maureen's parents accompanied her to every day of the trial in 1982, but they are gone now. So, too, is Danny's mother. And Joanne, as well as brothers Thomas, Joseph, and Kenny. Only Pat and Larry remain. All the others passed without a sense of closure, a chance to see justice served on their loved one's killer.

They all died of natural causes, and sadly, Mumia Abu-Jamal probably will, too. Surely Maureen knows this, which only makes her battle to see the will of the jury imposed that more laudatory.

The federal judicial system has made a mockery of the verdict. Pennsylvania's death penalty is a fraud and a fiction. More than 200 inmates sit on death row, but even they know that only three individuals have had such sentences carried out since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstituted capital punishment in the 1970s - and each of them asked for it. Heck, not only can you live a long life after murdering a cop, but you also can deliver radio commentaries, write books, and be a college commencement speaker.

How embarrassing to the American judicial system that speculation over jury confusion - where there is zero evidence of actual jury confusion - can deny justice. The opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit hinged on two words: mitigating and unanimous. Here are two from me: semantics and B.S. There was no confusion on that jury. The jurors didn't require much time on either guilt or sentencing given the clarity of the eyewitnesses, the ballistics, and the murderer's confession.

Last November, the jury foreman broke his silence to speak to me. George Ewalt was a Vietnam veteran working for Bell of Pennsylvania in 1982. He had kept abreast of what has happened to the verdict he and 11 others presented to Judge Albert Sabo at 5:15 p.m. on Friday, July 2, 1982. He recalled for me reading a book that included the axiom "The end of a society is when the evil cannot be punished, nor the good rewarded."

"That's the situation that sums it up for me right now," he told me. "This has been almost 30-some years and the whole system to me is being totally inept and manipulated."

Good for Seth Williams that he deferred to Maureen Faulkner as to the road ahead. She's earned that privilege. And if the Supreme Court turns down the commonwealth's appeal and a sentencing hearing ensues, we all know who will be in that courtroom, yet again, to see it through. Even though she knows that such a hearing could be just the start of many more years of appeals and counterappeals.

Maureen was just 25 when she married Danny and is in her mid-50s now. People assume that she hasn't moved on, that she can't move on, but she has. She lives in California and is happily married to a terrific guy. Her husband has been a champion for Danny, not because he knew him, but because he, too, knows it is right.

But two things have remained constant in three decades of judicial travesty: Abu-Jamal's guilt and Maureen's resolve. And neither of those will ever change.


Contact Michael Smerconish

via www.smerconish.com.

Read his columns at www.philly.com/smerconish

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