Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Senate Dems Reject Justice Pick despite Obama's Appeals

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Senate Dems Reject Justice Pick despite Obama's Appeals

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Mumia Abu-Jamal, a name that for more than three decades has stirred emotional divisions in Philadelphia and across oceans, was at the center of a stunning defeat Wednesday for President Barack Obama, as the Senate blocked a presidential nominee who had worked on the convicted cop killer's death penalty appeal.

In a 47-52 vote, Republicans and eight Democrats blocked a key procedural step in the nomination of Debo Adegbile, a former NAACP lawyer whom Mr. Obama had tapped to head the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

"This is a big win for Pennsylvania, for the country and for anybody who cares about our criminal justice system," said Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who led the fight against the nominee.

Democrats said Republicans had blocked an accomplished civil rights lawyer who had argued two voting rights cases in the Supreme Court, and whose role in the Abu-Jamal case had been distorted.

Mr. Obama called the vote "a travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks."

Abu-Jamal is serving a life term for the 1981 killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Initially sentenced to die, he became a worldwide cause celebre for those who believed he had been railroaded by a racist justice system, while others -- including prosecutors, some police organizations and Faulkner's widow, Maureen -- were incensed by his fame.

Philadelphia region senators shied away from supporting Mr. Adegbile, who in recent years had helped fight prosecutors' attempts to reinstate Abu-Jamal's death sentence.

Sens. Bob Casey, D.-Pa,, and Chris Coons, D-Del., were among the seven Democrats who opposed the nomination. The eighth vote came from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for procedural reasons so it could come up again, even as he argued for confirmation.

Mr.Adegbile is the first Obama appointee blocked since November, when Democrats changed Senate rules to require only a majority, not 60 votes, to advance a nomination. …

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