Date: Thu, 25 Feb 1999 15:59:45 -0600 (CST)
Geronimo Ji Jaga: Court finally abandons attempt to frame up former Black Panther
By Monica Moorehead, Workers World, 4 March 1999
Former Black Panther Geronimo ji Jaga (formerly Pratt) won an important legal battle Feb. 17. The Los Angeles County district attorney's office said they would not seek a retrial of ji Jaga for the 1968 murder and robbery of a woman on a Santa Monica tennis court.
Ji Jaga was convicted in 1972 based on the testimony of a Los Angeles sheriff's deputy, Julius Butler--an informant who had infiltrated the Black Panther Party.
At the time of his arrest, ji Jaga said that he had been attending a Black Panther meeting in Oakland. His defense team had no idea that Butler had been a paid informant during the first trial.
Ji Jaga spent 27 years in jail. He spent every painful day maintaining that he was framed for a crime he did not commit. Throughout his incarceration, there was always visible mass support for this political prisoner in and outside the courtroom.
In 1997 he was released from prison after an Orange County court of appeals threw out the conviction. The judge ruled that prosecutors had withheld vital evidence regarding a witness who could have cleared ji Jaga of the charges.
One of the defense lawyers, Stuart Hanlon, remarked: "It is very fulfilling to reach this point after all of these years. But my overwhelming feeling is anger. [District Attorney Gil] Garcetti fought us every step of the way."
Another factor in the district attorney's decision not to retry ji Jaga is that his office felt that the sordid history of the informant and the police officers he worked with would discredit them in the eyes of any jury.
There can be little doubt that this frame-up and conviction was tied to the Counter Intelligence Program, or Cointelpro, masterminded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the 1960s and 1970s.
Infiltrating groups with paid informants was a common FBI tactic to create distrust and break up unity. Conintelpro, a counter-revolutionary and terrorist campaign, was instrumental in undermining the Panthers and other revolutionary formations fighting for national liberation-- especially in the 1960s.
Ever since his release, ji Jaga has been attracting big crowds of activists--new and seasoned--to spread the message about the need to struggle against all forms of racist oppression and to fight for the release of all political prisoners.
He has become one of the most vocal supporters of the former Black Panther and award-winning journalist Mumia Abu- Jamal. Just months after his release, ji Jaga spoke in Philadelphia at an International Tribunal of 1,500 people to demand the freedom of Abu-Jamal.
The struggle for justice for ji Jaga is not quite over. Hanlon and ji Jaga's other lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, are planning a civil lawsuit on behalf on ji Jaga against the state of California for taking away 27 precious years of his life.
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