Black Panther Leader Geronimo Pratt Dead at 63

Activist was wrongly imprisoned for 27 years
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 3, 2011 1:38 AM CDT
Updated Jun 3, 2011 3:45 AM CDT
Elmer 'Geronimo' Pratt , smiles as he sits with attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. in an Orange County Superior courtroom during a hearing in 1997.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – Former high-ranking Black Panther Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt has died in Tanzania at the age of 63. Pratt had been living in a small village with his wife and child, attorney Stuart Hanlon tells the Los Angeles Times. There was no immediate information on the cause of death. Hanlon helped Pratt overturn a murder conviction against him in 1997 after the activist spent 27 years in prison. A judge finally threw out the conviction after ruling that prosecutors had concealed evidence that could have led to Pratt's acquittal.

Pratt, who joined the Black Panthers after serving two tours of duty in Vietnam, was convicted of the 1968 murder of a schoolteacher in Los Angeles. He maintained that the FBI knew he was innocent because they had him under surveillance hundreds of miles away in Oakland at the time. The case became a symbol of racial injustice, and Pratt eventually received a $4.5 million payout for false imprisonment. "Geronimo was a powerful leader," Hanlon says. "For that reason he was targeted."

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