Through the Looking Glass
Freedom cannot exist without discipline, self-discipline, and rights cannot exist without duties. Those who do not observe their duties do not deserve their rights.
On May 30, 1997, late in the afternoon, Jonathan Levin, a beloved English teacher at a Bronx high school, answered a phone call from Corey Arthur, a former student whose mentor he had been. Arthur pled with him: "I need to see you. It's important." As court records and testimony show, Levin responded to Arthur's plea by inviting him to come to his apartment. When Levin opened his door, however, he found not only Arthur but also another young man, Montoun Hart. Jon Levin's tortured and partially decomposed body was found three days later.
According to Hart's 11-page confession, he and Arthur misled Levin in order to gain access to his apartment. They then tortured him to make him tell them the PIN for his ATM card.
According to Hart, Levin asked, in the final moments of his life, "Why are you doing this to me?" The young men stabbed him in the chest and the back of the neck; they then pulled his head back and cut his throat three times before shooting him in the back of the head with a .22 caliber pistol. They then went to an ATM near his home and withdrew $800.
Jon Levin was the son of Gerald Levin, then the chief executive officer of media conglomerate Time Warner. Jon had made a decision not to follow his father into corporate America. Instead, he had dedicated his life to helping the disadvantaged and had become a teacher at an inner-city school where most of the kids were poor and black. His payback was brutal.
The evidence was overwhelming against the two defendants. Corey Arthur's voice begging to see Levin was on the answering machine, his fingerprints were found on the duct tape used to bind Levin to a chair (which Arthur admitted doing), and his girlfriend testified that he had confessed the killing to her. Even Arthur's lawyers admitted their client was present for the robbery, though he always denied pulling the trigger. He insisted it was the older Hart, who had no history with the victim, who had committed the murder. Hart, in his own confession, gave details of the crime that only someone who had been present would know. A witness identified Hart as the person who was making a withdrawal from the ATM at the relevant time.
It looked like an open-and-shut case of first-degree murder. For many years the homicide law in New York State had classified as first-degree murder only the killing of police officers and prison guards. However, in 1995 the law was amended to include killing "in the course of committing . . . and in furtherance of robbery," and also killing where "the defendant acted in an especially cruel and wanton manner pursuant to a course of conduct intended to inflict and inflicting torture upon the victim prior to the victim's death."7 First-degree murder is a capital crime, punishable by death or by imprisonment with no possibility of parole. Corey Arthur's jury acquitted him of first-degree murder. Instead, he was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years in jail, with eligibility for parole.
The verdict for Montoun Hart is even more shocking and dangerous. In the face of overwhelming evidence, Hart was found not guilty and freed. What got Hart off? The jury said it was the fact that he looked "wasted" in a picture they saw of him after his six-hour interrogation by the police. In a Herculean intellectual epiphany, they determined he must have been drunk or high when he confessed and therefore--viola^!--his confession didn't count.
Welcome to a culture where right and wrong have taken such a beating they're no longer recognizable. If you think this debasement of our culture can never really affect you, think again. Today's moral relativism and selfish agendas are moving through the body of society like a cancer, putting all of us at risk.
The Death of Right and Wrong
Carol Levin, Jon's mother, confessed to a reporter for the New York Post that she thought she was going to vomit in the courtroom as Hart, upon hearing "Not guilty," jumped up and shouted, "Ha! Yes! Thank you!" to the jury.9
Carol and Gerald Levin are condemned to never seeing Jon again. Each morning, in her longing for the son who will never come home, Carol dabs a drop of his Pierre Cardin cologne on her right wrist. She even hears his voice, she told the Post reporter, her eyes welling with tears as she imagined him telling her, "Mom, go on with your life. There's not much left. Live it."10
And Montoun Hart? Courtesy of a culture that is furiously erasing the concepts of right and wrong, he is free--not even on parole, where he would be watched. He is free among people many of whom are probably, like Jon Levin, willing to extend a helping hand to those in need. Many of them probably have ATM cards and remain ignorant of the killer who lives among them, placing them, and their children, at a risk they cannot even fathom.
The depravity of this story comes not only from Arthur and Hart, but also from a jury that could not, or would not, distinguish right from wrong. Where did this breakdown occur? How have our cultural mores and ethics deteriorated to the point where confessed murderers are allowed to go free? Certainly, injustices have existed for centuries in the United States, and millennia in the rest of the world. As a strict defender of the Constitution, I do not want to see our rights infringed upon by cruel and unusual punishments or by shoddy, deceptive police work. Nor am I one, believe me, to hark back to the days when "men were men" and women were in the kitchen. But I can't help thinking that there was an element in those days that created a certain trustworthiness, a certain stability. In recent decades, in all walks of life, it seems that our society has been hurtling down a slippery slope of selfishness, immorality, and cultural laziness. Enron, the Catholic Church, the Clinton White House--these are just grander instances of the kind of poor judgment and willful self-indulgence witnessed every day on the freeway, at the local diner, around the watercooler.
So how did we arrive at the state we're in? To help explain, let me offer another story.
Killer as Hero
In the early morning hours of December 9, 1981, Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner11 stopped one William Cook because he was driving the wrong way on a one-way street with his lights off. Before Faulkner got out of his patrol car, he called for a police wagon to back him up.
When the reinforcements arrived, they found Cook's brother, former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal (born Wesley Cook), lying in the street, wounded, with his shoulder holster empty. A gun registered to him was a few feet away, with five empty chambers. Police would later learn that Abu-Jamal had not arrived on the scene with his brother; he was sitting in his cab across the street when Faulkner pulled Cook over.
Faulkner also lay on the street, dying from five bullet wounds,12 one of which was to his back. Three witnesses specifically identified Abu-Jamal as the man who fired all the shots at Faulkner and testified that once Faulkner was down, Abu-Jamal stood over him and unloaded more shots directly into his groin and head.
At the hospital, Daniel Faulkner lay on a gurney in the emergency room as doctors and nurses worked in vain to revive him. Abu-Jamal was brought to the same hospital, kicking, screaming, and cursing. During his trial, hospital security guard Priscilla Durham testified that she was standing just a few inches from him and that as he struggled on the floor with hospital workers and police, he cursed Faulkner and said he hoped his victim would die.13
Abu-Jamal was eventually found guilty, after courtroom antics that included fighting with the judge and making political speeches. With overwhelming evidence against him and because of the special circumstance of killing a police officer on duty, during the penalty phase the jury of ten whites and two blacks deliberated for less than two hours and came back with a sentence of death.
So far, our justice system seemed to be working. Yes, we lost a good man that winter day in Philadelphia, but his murderer was where he belonged--on Death Row. But of course, in our world of growing moral relativism, that could not remain the case. Mumia Abu-Jamal, instead of being regarded as the criminal he is, has become a cause celebre for the Left--a martyred idealist, if you will.
Years of the Beast
The drumbeat to "Free Mumia" began almost immediately after his sentencing. By 1994 it was a favorite slogan for fashionable leftists. With the assistance of international television, the Mumia craze swept the world. Time reported his supporters' contention that the "real killer" had been spotted running from the scene; National Public Radio signed Abu-Jamal to do reports on prison life from behind bars (although the network cancelled the contract in response to overwhelming public pressure); Leonard Weinglass, the leftist attorney who is handling Abu-Jamal's appeal (and who had entered the national spotlight by defending the Chicago Seven and Patty Hearst's kidnappers), rounded up a herd of celebrities for the cause, including Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon, Ed Asner, and Ossie Davis.14
In 2000, the city of Paris, France, in all its anti-American socialistic glory, made Abu-Jamal an honorary citizen (a status last accorded to Pablo Picasso in 1971). There have been protests supporting Abu-Jamal from Japan to South Africa; "benefit" rock concerts have even been held to raise money for him. Also in 2000, Francois Mitterrand's widow, Danielle, visited Abu-Jamal in prison. Norman Mailer and Nelson Mandela piped up, contending that Abu-Jamal's trial was a "miscarriage of justice."15 Even Amnesty International joined the feast, citing "a pattern of events that compromised Abu-Jamal's right to a fair trial."16
Pattern of events? Spare me. The only pattern here was Abu-Jamal pulling the trigger of his .38 five times in order to murder Daniel Faulkner. As for any sign of repentance, after he heard his sentence, Abu-Jamal screamed, "Judge, you have just sentenced yourself to die."17 With several deputies pulling him out of the chaotic courtroom, his final words were "You have just convicted yourself, and sentenced yourself to death. . . ."18 Meet the Left's Ideal Man.
All this depends on the myth that somehow, some way, Mumia Abu-Jamal was railroaded. I know it seems absurd. Even Abu-Jamal's supporters know it's absurd. Consider Stuart Taylor, a journalist for both National Journal and Newsweek, who at least has the guts to weave the obviousness of Abu-Jamal's guilt into his support of him. How does he manage this? As the New York Times reported Taylor's artful but morally inane spin, he "speculates that some facts suggest the defendant, found wounded at the death scene with his legally registered gun lying nearby, might indeed have shot the policeman, but in an unplanned confrontation possibly involving elements of provocation and self-defense. He might, in other words, be neither guilty nor innocent."19
Wow! Neither guilty nor innocent! How's that for Through the Looking Glass? That's how the liberals would have our world be. No judgment, no conclusions, no reality, no rules, no personal responsibility. No guilt or innocence. The death of right and wrong.
I can't dismiss these liberals as simply confused or stupid. No, I believe the leaders of the Free Mumia campaign, and especially the Black Elite, know Abu-Jamal is guilty. In fact, that's their crime. They know this and they embrace it. They not only do not care, they want this type of man to be their people's heroes. For blacks, indeed for all of us, this is the ultimate betrayal of our communities.
The Drumbeat of Death
The drumbeat of support for Mumia Abu-Jamal began when the murderers of Jon Levin were little boys. They spent their lives being conditioned by the rhetoric that black men are so oppressed that even if you do the most heinous thing, you will be supported, you will be lied for, you will be celebrated. The message for Montoun Hart's jury was that, like Abu-Jamal, he was provoked, or perhaps he was even the victim. Certainly he was the victim of a racist, unforgiving society. Black men don't have a choice; they're defending themselves against the monster of White Amerikkka, they chant against the monster of the White Man's justice system.
The support for Abu-Jamal continued to gather steam throughout the 1990s. Wherever there were cameras, there were "Free Mumia" signs. During the 2000 Republican and Democratic national conventions, over 3,000 people marched in each convention city in support of Abu-Jamal. Gay-rights and animal-rights activists, feminists, and Hollywood celebrities all poured into the streets of Los Angeles and Philadelphia that year demanding that Abu-Jamal's death sentence be overturned and that he be given a new trial. 20
Also in 2000, Antioch College in Ohio invited Abu-Jamal to deliver the commencement address. That's right. It was recorded over the phone and played for the graduates, faculty, and parents.21 Besides being overwhelmingly offensive, this represents a much more serious problem. It demonstrates the Left's agenda of infecting young people specifically with a chaotic disregard for life and responsibility. After all, colleges invite people they want their students to emulate to deliver the commencement address. Abu-Jamal knows this. Here's part of what he, the Admired One, had to say to the graduating students of Antioch that day: "Think of the lives of those people you admire. Show your admiration for them by becoming them."22
Isn't that comforting? The Left is working to create a nation full of Mumia Abu-Jamals. The debacle of the Jon Levin murder trials is one sign of how we as a society are becoming complicit in this destructiveness.
And so Daniel Faulkner's widow, Maureen, has to face her husband's killer as he writes his Internet column and delivers college commencement speeches, as he is celebrated on T-shirts and in the media and is compared to Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. She and Danny were newlyweds when he was murdered. Now Maureen works to make sure that Mumia Abu-Jamal is indeed executed, as he was sentenced to be over 20 years ago.
Maureen Faulkner was also at Antioch on Commencement Day 2000, specifically to counter the myths that surround her husband's murderer. While Abu-Jamal was applauded and adored, his victim's widow was sequestered on another part of the campus and surrounded by police for her protection. Welcome to the World behind the Looking Glass.
Excerpted from The Death of Right and Wrong by Tammy Bruce. Copyright © 2004 by Tammy Bruce. Excerpted by permission of Crown Forum, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.