Former Black Panther Party leader Marshall "Eddie" Conway was released after serving nearly 44 years in prison. Supporters describe Conway as one of the country’s longest-held political prisoners. He was convicted of killing a Baltimore police officer in 1970, for which he has always maintained his innocence.
Conway, 67, was freed from prison Tuesday after challenging his conviction in a 1970 shooting that killed Officer Donald Sager and injured another officer. Conway's case was one of dozens affected by a ruling in which Maryland's high court said verdicts before 1980 were invalid because of faulty jury instructions.
The shooting occurred at a time when federal and local authorities were infiltrating and disrupting the Black Panthers and other activist groups. At the time of the shooting, the FBI was also monitoring Conway’s actions as part of its counterintelligence program, COINTELPRO. Numerous groups have campaigned for years calling for his release, saying he never received a fair trial and was convicted largely on the basis of testimony from a jailhouse informant.
Conway said that during his trial, the Black Panther Party was being attacked, with many members being jailed. Supporters have said the Black Panthers were being monitored by group of federal and local law enforcement agents whose mission was to "neutralize" organizations deemed subversive.
"My case happened right in the middle of that" climate, Conway said.
Despite the fact he felt unfairly targeted, during his four decades in prison, Conway said, he was determined to continue to do positive work for the community.
Politically active in prison, Conway founded Friend of a Friend, a group that helps young men, often gang members, resolve conflicts, and published a memoir, "Marshall Law: The Life & Times of a Baltimore Black Panther."
Now free, he plans to dedicate the next stage of his life to community service.
"The whole time I have been incarcerated I have always been trying to continue to do the positive work that I joined the Black Panther Party to do. And that was to feed children, to help educate people, to help organize the community, to help build a better community," Conway said during a interview Wednesday with Marc Steiner on WEAA FM.
All Power To All The People!
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