Casey won't back Justice nominee over Abu-Jamal work

Posted: March 02, 2014

WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D., Pa.) said Friday he would vote against confirming an Obama administration nominee whose past efforts to overturn the death sentence of convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal have drawn Republican ire.

Casey's decision, described in a statement he released late Friday, makes him one of the only Senate Democrats to have publicly opposed lawyer Debo Adegbile as the president's pick to lead the Justice Department's civil rights division.

"I respect that our system of law ensures the right of all citizens to legal representation no matter how heinous the crime," Casey's statement said. "At the same time, it is important that we ensure that Pennsylvanians and citizens across the country have full confidence in their public representatives."

Casey notwithstanding, Adegbile could still win confirmation from the Senate's Democratic majority. He needs 51 votes to clear a procedural vote expected Monday.

Last month, Adegbile wrung approval from a Judiciary Committee split along party lines.

Abu-Jamal was sentenced to die for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police Officer Daniel Faulkner. His death sentence was later overturned - thanks, in part, to appellate work done by a team Adegbile supervised in 2009 while working at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Republicans including U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, both of Pennsylvania, have decried Adegbile's appointment, saying his arguments on Abu-Jamal's behalf went beyond defense and were insulting to Faulkner's family.

The Fraternal Order of Police and Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, a Democrat, have also come out against Adegbile in recent weeks.

Democrats, including Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, have pointed to lawyers' professional duty to champion the rights of even the most unpopular clients, and argued that it is unfair to single out one case among the many Adegbile, 46, has argued in his career.


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