Pennsylvania Supreme Court won’t kick police-bashing District Attorney off cop-killer’s appeal case

Pennsylvania Supreme Court won’t kick police-bashing
District Attorney off cop-killer’s appeal case 1

HARRISBURG, PA- On Wednesday, December 16th, a divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied a plea by the widow of murdered Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner to ban Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner from being involved in the appeal of the man who killed her husband.

In the highly publicized case, Officer Faulkner’s brutal murder occurred back on December 9, 1981 after he stopped a vehicle for driving the wrong way down a one-way street. The car was driven by Mumia Abu-Jamal’s brother. 

As officer Faulkner attempted to take the driver into custody, Abu-Jamal came running from a parking lot across the street and opened fire from behind on the 25-year-old police officer. Faulkner had been shot in the back four times.

Officer Faulkner was able to return fire, striking the suspect. However, the suspect continued shooting, stood over the wounded officer, and shot him in the face. Abu-Jamal attempted to then flee the scene, but collapsed several feet away from the fallen officer, gun in hand.

Abu-Jamal, a member of the Black Panthers, was convicted of the murder of officer Faulkner in two separate trials and received the death penalty for his crime. Then, in 2011, through a series of appeals, his attorneys were able to have his death sentence commuted to a life sentence.

Back in October 2019, the widow of Officer Faulkner, Maureen Faulkner rallied in Center City with more than 100 officers and supporters, urging DA Krasner to recuse himself and his office from appeals filed by Abu-Jamal. 

In addition, Faulkner as if she could intervene in the case and asked the court to remove the Philadelphia prosecutor’s office from defending the guilty verdict against Abu-Jamal. She asked that the state Attorney General’s Office be the one to represent the state’s interests.

Faulkner wrote that Krasner’s wife, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Lisa Rau, was once a law firm partner with David Rudovsky, who represented Abu-Jamal in earlier appeals. She also noted that staffers in the DA’s office hired by Krasner previously advocated for Abu-Jamal.

She took her effort to the Supreme Court by filing an unusual King’s Bench petition urging the justices to pull the officer of DA Krasner off the case and have the AG’s office defend Abu-Jamal’s conviction against the appeals. 

In seeking that switch, she voiced concern that Krasner’s office “has been conflicted, has not litigated the case with due vigor.” In the request to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, her attorneys wrote:

“Krasner was an attorney and lead strategist on a legal team organized by a legal association on which Mumia Abu-Jamal is an active board member and which is dedicated to freeing Jamal.”

Although the high court’s majority denied Faulkner’s request to have the AG’s office take over the fight against Abu-Jamal’s appeals, one member of that majority cited concern about her allegations and urged the court to keep any eye on the case.

Justice Kevin Dougherty advised the court keep monitoring the situation. He called some of Maureen Faulkner’s claims “grave and alarming.” He cited her assertions that the DA’s office has not vigorously combatted all of Abu-Jamal’s appeal claims.

Her complaint that Krasner’s staff included people who once advocated for Abu-Jamal drew Dougherty’s attention as well. In his concurring opinion, the justice included a Twitter post by a member of Krasner’s staff.

The post featured a photo of a “Dump Krasner” protest Maureen Faulkner organized. All the participants were white and the DA staffer’s comment on the Twitter post was, “there’s something about this picture, can’t qwhite put my finger on it.”

Justice Sallie Mundy filed a dissenting opinion calling for the AG to replace the DA’s office on the case. She wrote:

“I conclude that the record before us establishes an appearance of impropriety.”

Mundy also said that she is troubled that Krasner’s office withdrew a challenge to the reinstatement of some of Abu-Jamal’s appeal rights without even talking to the former DA who prosecuted Abu-Jamal for Officer Faulkner’s fatal death.

She then noted that Krasner, a former defense attorney, had referred to former prosecutors who worked on the Abu-Jamal case as “war criminals.” She wrote:

“Such words are particularly disturbing in the context of a matter that has garnered worldwide notoriety and has become central to public debate on several issues, including the death penalty.”

She concluded:

“Public confidence in the rule of law requires the involvement of the DA’s office in this matter to cease.”

Justice David N. Wecht reached the opposite conclusion, find that Maureen Faulkner did not prove her conflict of interest claims. He wrote:

“Ms. Faulkner’s petition is being dismissed because she raised a litany of allegations, but was unable to prove any of them.”

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 President John McNesby said in a statement:

“His organization is disappointed by the Court’s recent opinion, but we’ve suffered setbacks in this case in the past and we’ll continue to fight for Maureen, the entire Faulkner family, and Philadelphia police officers.”

He added:

“We are on the right side of justice in this case and we believe convicted, cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal should remain in prison for the rest of his life.”

Officer Faulkner was a U.S. Army veteran. He had served with the Philadelphia Police Department for five years and had previously served with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. 

In the meantime in Houston, a man who killed another cop is being released:

On Thursday, December 17th, Criminal Court Judge Kent Ellis signed off on the release of Hung Truong, who is now 35 years old. Truong was charged with manslaughter, but found not guilty in 2009 by reason of insanity. Instead of prison, he was committed to the Rusk State Mental Hospital.

When speaking about Truong’s release, Douglas Griffith with the Houston Police Officers’ Union, said:

“I can almost guarantee we’ll see his name again somewhere,” 

Griffith continued:

“If he doesn’t take his medication and he starts hearing those voices again, we’ll be back in the same scenario sadly with another victim.”

On May 2, 2016, a Harris County Judge denied his release from the hospital where he has spent the last 12 years, however he is now being allowed to walk free.

According to reports, in 2008, Truong who was said to be drunk driving, ran a red light and drove through a barricade, striking Officer Gryder and his partner, F. J. Pyland, without braking. The vehicle continued until striking a brick wall, where the driver was taken into custody.

Officer Gryder lost his life in the incident, and his partner, Pyland, broke his leg.

In a statement, Griffith thanked those who were involved in trying to keep Truong locked away as long as possible for his crime. 

Griffith said:

“We would like to give a special thanks to former Harris County Assistant District Attorney, Bradford Crockard, who has valiantly fought to keep Hung Truong in a mental health facility, where he belongs”

At the time, Truong told police he was hearing voices which were telling him to kill a police officer.

Griffith said:

“He’s fine when he takes medication, when he is in the facility he has to take his medication. Once he’s out there alone,  there is no one there to make sure he is properly medicated,” 

Upon Truong’s release, he will be living in Northwest Harris County Precinct 4’s area, where the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable’s Office, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, and other law enforcement agencies will work collaboratively to sure Truong’s location is known at all times.

Griffith said:

“They’re not going to be able to watch him 24/7. No one can, even his own family won’t be able to do that,” 

Gryder’s partner at the time, F. J. Pyland, told FOX26 that he is thankful that he survived and is able to live out his life with his family, however he is upset that Gary was not.

Pyland, who has since retired from the force, said:

“I am not surprised. This did not end the way I thought it should, but this is how life works sometimes,” 

Officer Gryder had served with the Houston Police Department for 23 years. He is survived by his wife, son, step-daughter, two grandchildren, parents, and two sisters.

In December of 2019, Gryder’s son, Austin, followed in his father’s footsteps and became a police officer. 

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Here is another story Law Enforcement Today recently brought you of a Texas officer who was killed in the line of duty.

BEAUMONT, TX – A Texas police officer was killed and another was seriously injured when their cruiser was hit by a wrong-way driver at 2:30 a.m. Sunday.

Beaumont Police Department said Officer Sheena Yarbrough-Powell, 23, was killed when a wrong-way driver hit her cruiser, and another officer was seriously hurt while they were driving on Cardinal Drive, near the Highway 347 overpass.

The police cruiser was hit head-on by the driver of a Ford Mustang, according to Beaumont Police spokesperson Officer Haley Morrow.

Yarbrough-Powell was pronounced dead at the scene, Morrow said.

The second officer, who was driving, was rushed to a nearby hospital in serious condition. He is now in stable condition and has had surgery since the crash according to Chief Jimmy Singletary.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court won't kick police-bashing District Attorney off cop-killer's appeal caseBeaumont Police Department Chief Jimmy Singletary speaking at Sunday afternoon news conference.

The driver of the Ford Mustang was also taken to the hospital.

At a Sunday afternoon news conference, Chief Singletary said Powell was a Lumberton native and had been with the force since 2018. She had been married for only 10 months.

The Beaumont Police Department posted on Facebook:

“It’s a sad day for The Beaumont Police Department and the community that our Officers proudly serve.

“At 2:30 this morning, two Beaumont Police Officers were traveling Northbound on Cardinal Drive, near the Hwy 347 overpass, when they were struck head-on by a wrong way driver.

“One Officer was transported to the hospital with severe injuries but is stable. He underwent surgery early this morning and has since been released. He has a long road to recovery ahead of him but we will be with him every step of the way.

“Unfortunately, his partner did not survive her injuries.

“Officer Sheena Yarbrough-Powell, was a 23 year old Lumberton Native. She was hired by the Beaumont Police Department as a Police Cadet on August 13, 2018. On December 20, 2018 she was sworn in as a Beaumont Police Officer.

“Sheena was assigned to 4th Watch Patrol. She had been married for just 10 months.

“There’s no doubt that it’s an extremely difficult time to be a Police Officer but it’s also an extremely important time. Our Officers and Dispatchers have done a remarkable job during this difficult time but today, we are hurting.

“The next few days, weeks, months and years will be difficult for Sheena’s family, both blood and blue but we will get through this together with the help of our community.

“I would like to say thank you to the State Troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety for responding and leading the investigation of the crash.

“I would also like the thank the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and Lamar P.D. for stepping in and answering our calls for service while most of our Officers were on the scene of the crash.

“Also, I want to ask our community to not only keep Sheena’s family and the police department in your prayers but Beaumont EMS and Fire Department. Police, Fire and EMS go hand-in-hand.

“We are all first responders and our paths cross multiple times throughout our respective shifts. So this loss is hard for them too.

“We have already started to feel the outpouring of support from the community and it means more than you know. There will be more information released as we plan the services to honor Sheena’s life.”

Yarbrough-Powell’s death marks the 18th officer killed in the line of duty in the history of the Beaumont Police Department.

A list of all Beaumont police officers killed is noted on the Officer Down Memorial Page, with the first one being Deputy City Marshal William E. Patterson dying from gunfire on Sept. 25, 1881.

The Texas Department of Public Safety is investigating the recent crash.

Beaumont Mayor Becky Ames told 12News Sunday this is the second officer she has lost since taking office in 2007:

“My thoughts and prayers go to the family and friends left behind after such a needless tragedy. There are no words that can comfort grieving at a time like this, but my hope is that you know how many people in our city grieve with you. Our entire city hurts when we lose a first responder.”

We recently reported on another officer who died in the line of duty in Detroit, Michigan. Law enforcement lost another hero on May 31, 2020, when Officer Waldis “Jay” Johnson succumbed to his injuries sustained in April 2017 when he was shot in the head while responding to a domestic violence call in Detroit.

A 14-year veteran of the Detroit Police Department at the time, Officer Johnson was shot on April 30, 2017 when he and his partner responded to a call at the Oakman Apartments in the city, located on the west side.

They had been dispatched to that location on the report of a domestic disturbance.

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, Johnson and his partner had approached a common front door to the apartment complex, which was locked. After a few minutes, a man who was unrelated to the call for service came downstairs.

Johnson was immediately met by a tenant with a gun, who pointed it at Johnson. A struggle ensued for control of the firearm. Johnson let go momentarily to get control of his gun, and both fired at the same time. Two bullets struck the suspect from Johnson’s gun; however, Johnson was shot once in the head. Johnson’s partner, Officer Darren Weathers, fired back and killed the suspect, James Edward Ray, 46.

Johnson suffered a traumatic brain injury and remained in rehab until his death. He is survived by his wife, daughter and two sons.

On July 31, Trooper Caleb Starr, 33, was injured when his vehicle was struck head-on by an intoxicated driver in Michigan. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, Starr was traveling west on Grand River Avenue, in Boston Township, responding to a low-priority call when a vehicle crossed the center line and struck his vehicle.

He had to be extricated from the vehicle and flown by helicopter to Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital, in Grand Rapids, where he remained until succumbing to his injuries.

Trooper Starr served with the Michigan State Police for less than two years. He is survived by his wife and two children

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