Geronimo ji jaga (Pratt), a former Black Panther whose 1972 murder conviction was overturned after he spent 27 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit, has died at 63
|By Robert J. Lopez, Los Angeles Times|
Pratt’s case became a cause celebre for a range of supporters, including elected officials, activists, Amnesty International, clergy and celebrities who believed he was framed by Los Angeles police and the FBI because he was African American and a member of the radical Black Panthers. Pratt maintained that the FBI knew he was innocent because the agency had him under surveillance in Oakland when the slaying was committed in Santa Monica.”Geronimo was a powerful leader,” Stuart Hanlon, Pratt’s longtime San Francisco attorney, told The Times. “For that reason he was targeted.”Pratt was arrested in 1970 and two years later convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the 1968 fatal shooting of Caroline Olsen and the serious wounding of her husband, Kenneth, in a robbery that netted $18. The case was overturned in 1997 by an Orange County Superior Courtjudge who ruled that prosecutors at Pratt’s murder trial had concealed evidence that could have led to his acquittal.A federal judge later approved a $4.5 million settlement in Pratt’s false-imprisonment and civil rights lawsuit.
Pratt, who also went by Geronimo Ji Jaga Pratt, was born on Sept. 13, 1947, in Morgan City, La., a small town about two hours from New Orleans. The youngest of seven children, Pratt was raised as a Roman Catholic by his mother and his father, who operated a small scrap-metal business.
Growing up in the segregated South amid a tight-knit black community had a profound effect on Pratt, he later told interviewers. Continue reading