[Ppnews] Black Panther Geronimo ji jaga Pratt dies

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jun 3 03:15:14 EDT 2011

Former Black Panther Elmer 'Geronimo' Pratt dies, attorney says

 From Erica Henry, CNN
June 3, 2011 1:56 a.m. EDT

(CNN) -- Former Black Panther Elmer "Geronimo" 
Pratt, who was wrongly imprisoned for 27 years on 
a murder conviction, died Thursday in Tanzania, his former lawyer said.

He was 63.

Stuart Hanlon, a San Francisco-based lawyer who 
helped overturn Pratt's murder conviction, said 
he did not know the exact cause of death.

Pratt died in a small village in Tanzania where 
he lived with his wife and child, Hanlon said.

Hanlon called Pratt a "true American," saying 
that he was an Army veteran who served two tours 
in Vietnam before joining the Black Panther Party.

"He could've been a great leader. He was very 
charismatic," Hanlon said. "His legacy is that he 
never gave up. He never got despondent or angry."

Pratt's conviction became a rallying cry for 
rights groups that said he had been framed for 
his strident activism during the turbulent civil rights era.

Pratt was convicted for the 1968 murder of 
Caroline Olsen on a Santa Monica tennis court. He 
spent 27 years in prison before the conviction 
was overturned in 1997 after a judge ruled that 
prosecutors had concealed evidence.

The victim's husband, wounded during the robbery 
attempt, originally identified another man as the 
killer. But the jury was not informed of that, the judge said.

Famed attorney Johnnie Cochran also helped in the 
legal battle to get Pratt released from prison. 
Pratt spoke at Cochran's funeral in 2005.

After his release, Pratt told CNN that he held no 
bitterness about the many years he spent behind bars.

"I don't think bitterness has a place. I'm more 
understanding," Pratt said in a 1999 interview. 
"Understanding doesn't leave any room for bitterness or anger."

Of the 27 years he spent in prison, Pratt said 
eight was in solitary confinement. He said his 
spirituality and love of music helped him through that period.

"My mantra was the blues. It would go through my 
head when I was going through my meditations," Pratt said.

CNN's Erica Henry contributed to this report.

Former LA Black Panther leader Pratt dies at 63

Created: 06/02/2011 09:58:53 PM PDT


LOS ANGELES­Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt, a former 
Black Panther Party leader who spent 27 years in 
prison on a murder conviction that was later overturned, has died. He was 63.

Pratt died at his home in a small village in 
Tanzania, where he had lived for at least half a 
decade, lawyer Stuart Hanlon, who helped Pratt 
win his freedom, told The Associated Press from San Francisco on Thursday.

Hanlon said he learned of Pratt's death through 
the former activist's family members. He did not 
know what caused Pratt's death, but said he had 
suffered from high blood pressure.

Hanlon said Pratt refused to carry any resentment 
about his treatment by the legal system.

"He had no anger, he had no bitterness, he had no 
desire for revenge. He wanted to resume his life 
and have children," he said. "He would never look back."

Pratt was convicted in 1972 of being one of two 
men who robbed and fatally shot schoolteacher 
Caroline Olsen on a Santa Monica tennis court in 
December 1968. No one else was arrested.

Pratt claimed he was in Oakland for Black Panther 
meetings the day of the murder, and that FBI 
agents and police hid and possibly destroyed 
wiretap evidence that would prove it.

His lawyers, who included high-profile defense 
attorney Johnnie Cochran, blamed his arrest on a 
politically charged campaign by J. Edgar Hoover's 
FBI against the Black Panthers and other 
perceived enemies of the U.S. government.

Pratt's belated reversal of fortune came with the 
disclosure that a key prosecution witness hid the 
fact he was an ex-felon and a police informant.

Superior Court Judge Everett Dickey granted him a 
new trial in June 1997, saying the credibility of 
prosecution witness Julius Butler­who testified 
that Pratt had confessed to him­could have been 
undermined if the jury had known of his 
relationship with law enforcement. He was freed later that month.

Cochran, best known representing such clients as 
O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson, called the day 
Pratt's freedom was secured "the happiest day of my life practicing law."

Prosecutors announced two years after the 
conviction was overturned that they would abandon efforts to retry him.

"I feel relieved that the L.A. DA's office has 
finally come to their senses in this respect," 
Pratt said at the time. "But, I am not relieved 
in that they did not come clean all the way in 
exposing their complicity with this frame-up, this 27-year trauma."

He settled a false imprisonment and civil rights 
lawsuit against the FBI and city of Los Angeles for $4.5 million in 2000.

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