- For some time, a few liberals (like yours truly), and many more conservatives, have used the "Free Mumia" cause as a shorthand for a kind of ineffectual yet harmless activism that always exists in some corners of the left. Whatever the merits of Mumia Abu-Jamal's case, if you brought a "Free Mumia" sign to an anti-war rally in 2003 (as some people actually did), you weren't doing anybody any good.
- But over three decades after his conviction for killing police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981 as the officer conducted a traffic stop of his brother, Mumia Abu-Jamal's case continues to exert power, most particularly the power to strike fear and rage in the hearts of certain people.
- So yesterday, the United States Senate voted down the nomination of Debo Adegbile to lead the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, the reason cited by all being that when Adegbile was head of the NAACP's Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Fund filed an amicus brief in support of Abu-Jamal's appeal of his death sentence. Every Republican voted against Adegbile, as did seven Democrats. Each one of them would tell you that while they believe everyone is entitled to representation and the willingness of attorneys to defend even reviled defendants is the cornerstone of a fair judicial system, well, this case is just different.
- And different how? Delaware Democratic senator Chris Coons explained his vote by saying that although Adegbile was obviously qualified and had done nothing disqualifying, "The decades-long public campaign by others, however, to elevate a heinous, cold-blooded killer to the status of a political prisoner and folk hero has caused tremendous pain to the widow of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner and shown great disrespect for law enforcement officers and families throughout our region." In other words, he voted against Adegbile because of what some other people said.
- Mitch McConnell agreed, saying Adegbile "inserted his office in an effort to turn reality on its head, impugn honorable and selfless law enforcement officers, and glorify an unrepentant cop-killer. This is not required by our legal system. On the contrary, it is noxious to it." True, Adigbile didn't actually do any of those things—he didn't impugn Daniel Faulkner or glorify Mumia Abu-Jamal. But why should that stop McConnell from saying he did?
- As Adam Serwer reminded us, when he was in private practice Chief Justice John Roberts once defended John Errol Ferguson, a Florida man who murdered eight people. This did not make any Republicans upset, at the time of Roberts' appointment to the Supreme Court or since. But the rules are obviously different here. John Roberts wasn't actually sympathetic to the murderer he was defending, but Debo Adegbile is, in the words of one Fox News pundit, a "cop-killer's coddler."
- And what might the difference between Adegbile and Roberts be? Senator Tom Harkin took to the floor of the Senate to argue that it's simple: Roberts is white, and Adegbile is black.
- Nah, that couldn't have anything to do with it.
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