A New Jersey school teacher is drawing criticism after she reportedly had a group of third-grade students write “get well” notes to convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is said to be ailing in a prison infirmary.
According to a story from Philly.com, Marilyn Zuniga, who teaches at Forest Street School in Orange, New Jersey, sent out a tweet Thursday saying, “My 3rd graders wrote to Mumia to lift up his spirits as he is ill. #freemumia.”
Abu-Jamal, who is now 60 years old, is serving a life sentence for killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981. He was originally sentenced to death in 1982 but that was later overturned. Although his conviction has never been overturned, despite numerous appeals, his case has long been used to bolster claims of racism in the United States justice system.
Zuniga is said to have given the letters to longtime Abu-Jamal supporter, Johanna Fernandez, who is a history professor at Baruch College. Fernandez later delivered the letters to the ailing prisoner and wrote about the encounter on her Facebook page.
“We shared a touching moment with Mumia in an effort to raise his spirits,” Fernandez wrote, according to Education Action Group News. “Two teachers delivered letters to us that their students had written to Mumia.”
The other batch of letters was said to have been from a group of high school students.
“It had been a long time since we had seen Mumia smile. He chuckled as he read excerpts from these touching letters,” Fernandez wrote.
Richard Costello, former president of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police, fought against leniency in Abu-Jamal’s case. He went on Fox News recently and denounced the teacher for having her young students write the letters.
“I think it's both alarming and outrageous that any teacher would use a group of innocent 7-year-olds to promote a twisted agenda glorifying murder, glorifying hatred and glorifying violence,” Costello said in the interview.
“I think the school system needs to immediately fire any teacher involved in this,” he added.
Philly.com reports it attempted to contact both Zuniga and Fernandez for further comment but neither could be reached.
Abu-Jamal is thought be suffering from complications related to diabetes, according to Philly.com.
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