In a rare outbreak of bipartisan sanity, the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate rejected Debo Adegbile, President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Adegbile advocated the cause of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killing Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner in 1982.
As the son of a career law enforcement officer, I’m left to wonder whether President Barack Obama holds law enforcement in high esteem. He also has a bad habit of injecting himself into local legal matters, a habit that may well prejudice justice itself.
The Adegbile nomination comes after other instances in which reasonable people might rightly question Obama’s attitude toward law enforcement. For instance, it comes after Obama feted the rapper known as Common, whose lyrics glorify cop killing, at the White House; and it comes after he said Cambridge, Mass. police “acted stupidly” for legitimately arresting Henry Louis Gates, a black Harvard professor.
If police don’t know who you are, and if you’re trying to get into a house they don’t know is yours without a key, it seems reasonable that you should be required to identify yourself and prove that you’re legitimately on the premises. By all accounts that’s all Cambridge police asked Gates to do, yet he became unruly.
And the nomination comes after Obama publicly signaled potential jurors in the George Zimmerman case how he thought they should decide it. “If I had a son,” Obama said, “he’d look like Trayvon” Martin, whom Zimmerman claimed to have shot in self-defense. Obama is a Harvard-trained lawyer, jurors might have said. If he thinks Zimmerman’s guilty, who are we to argue? (Fortunately, jurors were not swayed.)
As for Adegbile, his support of Mumia extends well beyond the zealous representation that both the Constitution and legal ethics demand that he provide his client. Adegbile appeared at rallies spotlighting Mumia’s cause, which were intended (despite the evidence against him) to elevate him to near political-prisoner status.
To hear many of Mumia’s supporters extol his alleged virtues, anyone unacquainted with the facts of Faulkner’s murder might be tempted to think that there’s little difference between Mumia and, say, former South African President Nelson Mandela. The facts of the case, however, reveal the real Mumia.
Several witnesses saw Mumia shoot Faulkner several times, even after his first shots had left the officer defenseless. Several more heard Mumia brag about the shooting and say he hoped Faulkner died.
Officers are not all above reproach. Those who tarnish the badge they wear and betray the public trust should be severely dealt with. Mumia, however, is far from the ideal poster child for any crusade against crooked cops. There is no evidence that Faulkner was involved in any wrongdoing, while Mumia is far from an innocent man.
Surely there are better “poster children” than Mumia for any crusade to rectify any wrongs committed by law enforcement, and surely there are better nominees than Adegbile to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. With respect to the latter, the U.S. Senate rightly thought so.
Ken K. Gourdin, Tooele, is a certified paralegal, and is proud to be the son of retired Tooele City Police Sergeant Jared Gourdin.