Maureen Faulkner

Maureen Faulkner, the wife of deceased Philadelphia police officer Danny Faulkner, who was murdered back in 1981,at the age of 25, is photographed at her home in Ventura County. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times / December 21, 2007)

In the 26 years since former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal gunned down her cop husband on a Philadelphia street, Maureen Faulkner has often felt like a reed in a tornado.

As death penalty opponents around the world rallied to win Abu-Jamal a new trial, contending that he had been framed by local police, Faulkner quietly fought back one hearing at a time.

She never missed a court hearing through the long appeals process, even after she moved from Philadelphia to suburban Ventura County. She's appeared at pro-Mumia events, handing out fliers to explain the evidence that led a jury to convict and sentence Abu-Jamal to death.

Now, with a new book that presents her view of what she believes is the misguided support that has made her husband's killer a global cause celebre, Faulkner, 51, says she is determined to remain the voice of her late husband, Danny.

"Here's a man who murdered another man with premeditation and malice. Why does he have a voice?" asked Faulkner, calm and articulate, from the sun-filled dining room of her hilltop home north of Los Angeles. "My husband has been silenced."

Jeff Mackler, a national coordinator of the Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, said he hadn't yet read Faulkner's book but planned to do so. What happened to her husband is a "terrible tragedy," Mackler said.

"But it's an equally terrible tragedy that an innocent man is going to be executed in the name of satisfying her grief."

To Faulkner, "Murdered by Mumia: A Life Sentence of Loss, Pain, and Injustice" is a way of countering misinformation that Abu-Jamal's supporters have distributed in a campaign to free him, or at least to win him a new trial.

But it's also a look at a woman who decided to honor her late husband by not running away from the controversy.

The Faulkners had been married a year when she got "the knock" in the middle of the night Dec. 9, 1981. Faulkner was a five-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department.

"With his shiny adornments glistening against the dark night, I thought maybe I was dreaming," Faulkner writes of the officer who stood outside her door that night. "My heart pounded furiously against my rib cage, and my knees felt weak as I opened the door."

It was the beginning of a new life that would take Faulkner from Philadelphia to California and cast her as the living symbol of her dead husband.

"I don't want people to think I'm angry, because I'm not. I've moved on in my life," said Faulkner, who has lived with her companion, Paul Palkovic, for 16 years.

"But there's just something inside of me that says I have to seek justice for Danny."

Faulkner's book covers the well-established events of that night. Her husband, a patrolman in the city's red-light district, stopped Billy Cook, Abu-Jamal's brother, for a traffic infraction. Cook punched Faulkner, and the two started to scuffle.

Abu-Jamal, who was driving a taxicab that night, saw the confrontation from across the street and leaped from his cab to intervene.

Several shots were fired, and police moments later found Faulkner face-up on the sidewalk with bullets in his back and forehead. Abu-Jamal had also been wounded and was taken to a hospital for surgery. After recovering, he was ordered to stand trial on a charge of first-degree murder.

Prosecutors produced four witnesses who said Abu-Jamal had fired on Faulkner as he approached and then straddled the officer to fire several more rounds.

Ballistics evidence tied the bullets to Abu-Jamal's gun, which was found beside him when police arrived.