Geronimo Pratt, a former leader of the Black Panther Party falsely accused, then imprisoned for 27 years, died June 3 in Tanzania, where he was living. He was 63 years old.
Pratt was framed by the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department, but won release after he was granted a new trial in 1997. Key to the political prisoner’s eventual exoneration was the revelation of hidden evidence that a jail house snitch who testified against him was in fact an undercover FBI agent.
Pratt, who was accused of the murder and robbery of a California schoolteacher, was defended by the late Johnnie Cochran, who hailed the case his most important legal victory.
A broad public campaign helped lead to his freedom.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the Black Panther Party, along with many other groups, was subject to severe persecution and harassment by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI and their COINTELPRO program.
Two years after his release, Pratt won a $4 million settlement in a lawsuit against the FBI and the LAPD.