Geronimo Pratt, Former Black Panther Leader, Dies at 63

Geronimo Pratt, Former Black Panther Leader, Dies at 63

The former Black Panther Party leader was wrongly convicted of murder.

Published June 3, 2011

Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt, the former Minister of Defense of the Black Panther Party who was wrongly convicted and later exonerated of committing a 1968 murder, has died in Tanzania.

The initial report of Pratt’s death appeared on Thursday when a Pratt family member said that the member of the Los Angeles Black Panther chapter had died in the east African country. Pratt had lived there in a small village for nearly five years.

At press time, the cause of death was not reported but Pratt supposedly suffered from high blood pressure.

In 1970, Pratt was arrested and charged for a murder that took place two years earlier in Santa Monica, California. The case became a cause celebre and the late Johnnie L. Cochran was one of Pratt’s attorneys. Pratt was convicted and served 27 years in prison. In 1997, he was exonerated when it was proven that prosecutors had concealed evidence. Pratt always maintained that he was innocent of all charges.

Pratt’s other lawyer, Stuart Hanlon, told the Associated Press that Pratt did not let his nearly 30 years in prison affect his outlook on life. "He had no anger, he had no bitterness, he had no desire for revenge. He wanted to resume his life and have children. He would never look back," said Hanlon.

In 2000, he settled a false imprisonment and civil rights lawsuit against the FBI and city of Los Angeles for $4.5 million, according to the AP.

(Photo: AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

Written by Frank McCoy

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