I don’t think of myself as traveling in a rowdy or criminal crowd, yet there are two killers I’ve known in my life.
One was a friend from college, George. I lost touch with him only to receive a letter years later after I had appeared on Good Morning America. He was watching from prison.
George did his wife in and then buried her under a freshly poured cement basement floor. Considering the crime, and considering he was convicted of manslaughter and not murder, there must have been extenuating circumstances.
This seemed very out of character for George. I had never known him to be threatening or violent – ever.
The other killer in my life is a little more notorious, Mumia Abu Jamal.
I knew Mumia on the late ’70s when he was a newsman and I was a disk jockey at WPEN in Philadelphia. I remember him as being very soft spoken with a beautiful deep voice. His copy was very well written. He was lacked any knowledge of sports. For heaven’s sake, he was asking me for sports pronunciations and background.
Because of the station’s format and our “naming convention”, Mumia was forced to have a more Anglo first, middle and last name and became “William Wellington Cole.”
You can’t make this stuff up! In retrospect, that was embarrassing.
I have no idea whether he killed the policeman he was convicted of shooting, but my guess is, he did. He had become more radical over the years and, I suppose, angry.
This is all brought to mind since he was made an honorary citizen of Paris today.
I believe the French have really honed their revulsion toward us and our society to a fine, sharp point. This is just another way to tweak us.
It must be sad for them to live in a country that is no longer an important member of the international community. I’m not saying we have foreign policy geniuses running the show, because we don’t, but our opinion, muscle, and money still count for something. France, on the other hand, is a marginal player at best.
C’est la vie.
US death row inmate made Paris citizen
PARIS, Oct 4 (AFP) – The city of Paris Saturday made an honorary citizen of celebrated US death row inmate and black activist Mumia Abu-Jamal, sentenced to die for the 1981 murder of a white Philadelphia policeman.
It is the first time Paris has bestowed the honour since Pablo Picasso was made honorary citizen in 1971, Socialist mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoe told an audience of 200 people, taking the occasion to attack the “barbarity” of the death penalty.
Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther civil rights activist and journalist who has maintained his innocence, had his death sentence overturned in December of 2001 but that decision is currently on appeal.
In attacking the “barbarity called the death penalty,” the mayor said “as long as there is a place on this planet where one can be killed in the name of the community, we haven’t finished our work.”
Raising his fist in a sign of solidarity, Delanoe then shouted “Mumia is a Parisian!” as the crowd of mostly-leftist activists cheered and applauded.
Black activist Angela Davis, a former member of the Black Panthers and the Communist Party, hailed the “profound sense of humanity” of Abu-Jamal, attacking American “unilateralism” and racist attacks against immigrants.
The movement to free Abu-Jamal “takes on a new sense in face of American unilateralism, the aggression against the Iraqi people and the racist attacks against immigrants which can only further gnaw away at the vestiges of democracy in the United States,” Davis, a professor at the University of California in Santa Cruz, said.
Abu-Jamal, sentenced to death 21 years ago for the murder of Daniel Faulkner, has always insisted he was innocent, and scores of movements and organizations have sprung up around the world in his defence.
His opponents view him as an unrepentant murderer.
His case has provoked particularly vivid debate in France, which abolished the death penalty in 1981. French school children are required to study the case as part of their education.