The guest speaker, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted in the 1981 of first-degree murder for the shooting death of Daniel Faulkner a police officer in Philadelphia, will speak with a small number of undergraduates at Goddard through a video message that is pre-recorded on Sunday.
Abu-Jamal originally received a death sentence for the cop killing in 1981. However, following a lengthy court fight, the sentence was reduced to life in prison without parole. To this day, Abu-Jamal maintains he is innocent.
His case was the cause of great debates over the justice system of the U.S. after many advocates argued that his conviction was due to a trial that was unfair.
The case to date is contentious so much that it caused the nominee for the Justice Department’s Civil Right Division to be derailed because he represented Abu-Jamal in the past in court.
It is the current controversy that has seemed to prompt the undergraduates at Goddard to select the convicted killer to be the commencement speaker. Abu-Jamal is an alumnus of the school completing his degree in Bachelor of Arts from behind bars in 1996.
Goddard holds close to two dozen different individualized commencement ceremonies every year, giving the students in every degree program a choice.
The Department of Corrections in Pennsylvania is not happy saying they are upset the school would allow someone like this inmate to be a commencement speaker.
However, they know that Abu-Jamal has the right to a telephone, and he can provide recorded a message beforehand for the ceremonies.
The widow of the slain Pennsylvania police officer condemned the decision by Goddard, calling it inappropriate.