Abu-Jamal's speech prompts bill support

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Reaction has been raw to convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal delivering a commencement speech to a small college in Vermont.

Now that reaction is guiding a bill through the Pennsylvania legislature.

Pennsylvania lawmakers, Delaware Valley district attorneys, Governor Tom Corbett stood in support Monday for a bill that could stop convicted felons like Abu-Jamal from doing what he did over the weekend - delivering a commencement address.

The bill allows prosecutors or victims to ask a court to stop offenders from causing more mental anguish, but the bill is sure to face a First Amendment hurdle.

"We don't feel we're even near infringing on First Amendment rights and it's certainly is not the intent. The intent here is to protect the scabs that exist on our victims from being torn off again, again, and again," State Representative Mike Vereb said.

Abu-Jamal recorded that graduation speech by phone for graduates at Goddard College in Vermont.

Community outrage has only increased against the institution and the man convicted for the 1981 killing of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.

Also on Sunday, a silent vigil was held in Center City at Faulkner's memorial plaque.

"I think it's absolutely think it's disgusting that this cop killer would be afforded an opportunity to address college students, frankly. But more importantly, this legislation is about giving victim's voice," State Representative Todd Stephens said.

"Legal rights are not determined by public opinion. Legal rights are determined by long standing, legal and constitutional principles," attorney Tom Kline said.

That's why Kline says the bill would have to find a balance between freedom of speech and the protection of victims.

"It has to be carefully worked through and looked at in a very careful legalistic, constitutional way," Kline said.

This victims' rights bill was voted out of a House committee, it's making its way through the legislature, and it could be on Governor Corbett's desk by next week.
Copyright © 2020 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.