Mumia Abu-Jamal sues Pennsylvania over new convicts gag law (+video)
Convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, who's serving a life sentence, filed a lawsuit on the grounds that a new Pennsylvania law restricts convicts free-speech rights.
Abu-Jamal and prisoner-rights groups filed a federal lawsuit Monday seeking to stop the law, which allows violent-crime victims to take legal action when an offender's conduct "perpetuates the continuing effect of the crime."
They're asking a judge to declare it unconstitutional.
Gov. Tom Corbett signed the measure into law last month saying it's designed to curb the "obscene celebrity" cultivated by convicts like Abu-Jamal, who's serving a life sentence for the 1981 killing of a Philadelphia police officer.
The law was prompted by Abu-Jamal's pre-recorded speech last month to graduates at Vermont's Goddard College. Abu-Jamal has drawn international support for claims he's the victim of a racist justice system.
As The Christian Science Monitor reported:
At the signing of the Revictimization Relief Act Tuesday, Governor Corbett was flanked by police officers, victims’ advocates, and Faulkner’s widow, Maureen Faulkner.
Mrs. Faulkner “has been taunted by the obscene celebrity that her husband’s killer has orchestrated from behind bars,” Corbett said. “This unrepentant cop killer has tested the limits of decency, while gullible activists and celebrities have continued to feed this killer’s ego at the expense of his victims.”
Civil liberties experts will likely challenge the law in court. “If the First Amendment means anything, it’s that government officials can’t silence people they don’t like,” says Vic Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, in a Monitor interview. It would even apply to people who have served their sentence and been released, he says.
“We think this law is pretty clearly unconstitutional and is just a result of election-year pandering,” Mr. Walczak says.