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article imageFormer Black Panther leader freed after 44 years in prison

By Layne Weiss     Mar 5, 2014 in World
Baltimore - Former Black Panther leader Marshall "Eddie" Conway was freed Tuesday after spending 44 years in prison for killing a Baltimore police officer.
Conway, now 67, was convicted in the 1970 shooting death of Baltimore police officer Donald Sager. The incident left another officer injured.
The former Black Panther leader has always maintained his innocence claiming the prosecution was politically motivated, according to The Baltimore Sun.
Police union officials and Sager's family still believe Conway is guilty, but prosecutors said it would have been impossible to convict him again.
Conway is one of dozens of prisoners released after a 2012 ruling by Maryland's Court of Appeals that judges gave juries improper instructions before 1980, rendering verdicts invalid, Fox News reports.
Conway sought a new trial under the 2012 decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals. He reached a deal with prosecutors to abandon his fight in exchange for his release, The Baltimore Sun reports.
Less than 24 hours after his release, Conway spoke with Democracy Now in an exclusive interview.
"You must have been shocked yesterday in that nondescript courtroom when the judge announced you were free," Amy Goodman said.
"Yes. Well, I had anticipated that that was going to happen, but until it actually happened, I was not sure what was going to happen," Conway responded.
Nermeen Shaikh asked Mr. Conway to talk about the experience of writing his memoir in prison.
"Well, I think at some point I realized I was getting older, and I realized that I had a lot of experiences and a lot of history of things that had happened, and they hadn’t been recorded," Conway replied. "And I think they would have been lost to history, and they would have been lessons that had been learned through organizing in prisons that other people could have used," he continued "So I think at some point I sat down, and I started writing, and I tried to capture what it was that we had tried to do during those turbulent years that George Jackson was organizing in California and Attica occurred in New York.
We were trying in the state of Maryland to organize prison labor unions," Conway went on. "We were trying to organize education seminars, communication seminars. There was no prison library, say, in the penitentiary for 2,000 people, and so there were no books available. So we organized a prison library. All of those things were like collective, organized activities from prisoners on the ground that was an attempt to change the prison system in a way in which would be acceptable, kind of like going down the middle. We wasn’t talking about guerrilla warfare, and we wasn’t talking about tearing down the prison, but we was trying to make things available for prisoners so that they could improve their lives.
That experience, I thought, was going to be lost as I got older and older, Conway said," so I decided to start writing and wrote it down, and my co-author kind of helped me shape it and develop it and whatnot. And so, we ended up producing that book. And I hope it’s something that people can see and learn and understand what we went through."
Conway answered more questions explaining why he joined the Black Panthers and what happened in 1970. He also discussed organizing a labor union and library in the prison. To listen to or read the rest of the interview, click here.
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