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Obama Nominee To Civil Rights Post Sparks Controversy Over Connection To Mumia Abu-Jamal

By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - President Obama's decision to nominate a former NAACP Legal Defense Fund attorney to the top civil rights job at the Department of Justice is sparking outrage among the police unions for his connection to Mumia Abu-Jamal. Jamal was convicted of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1982.

Debo Adegbile led the NAACP Legal Defense Fund when it successfully represented Mumia Abu-Jamal in a 2011 appeal that resulted in the reduction of his death sentence to life without parole.

"It's an absolute slap in the face to every police officer, especially those who gave their lives in the line of duty," says John McNesby, president of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police.

"There's outrage, there's resentment there's disapproval- you name it and our cops are feeling it," he says.

McNesby says he's in the process of meeting with national FOP president Chuck Canterbury to decide on next steps.

"We're trying to reach out to all our legislators, all our senators and do our best to make sure this guy is not confirmed," says McNesby, "he can leave a lasting footprint in the DOJ for years to come and that's not something we look forward to."

"Debo Adegbile was not Mumia's lawyer-- he simply assisted as a NAACP Legal Defense fund attorney with several other attorneys," says Michael Coard, a Philadelphia lawyer who also worked as local counsel on Abu-Jamal's defense.  He says he does not know Adegbile personally, but the attorney is nationally known as one of the best civil rights litigators in the country.

"He's successfully argued before the US Supreme Court-- how many lawyers can say that," says Coard, "he's argued in many state and in many federal courts throughout the country on criminal justice initiatives, voting, you name it."

He says if the FOP is successful in blocking the Adegbile nomination, it would set a dangerous precedent.

"It would have a horrible chilling effect if lawyers began to think twice before taking a case," he says, "lawyers do not represent a client, they represent the constitution and the bill of rights."

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