Revolutionary Worker #910, June 8, 1997
Great news for the people: an important victory has been won in the struggle to free Geronimo ji Jaga Pratt. Late Thursday afternoon, May 29, a Santa Ana judge, Everett W. Dickey, threw out Geronimo's 1972 conviction for murder and his life sentence. He ordered Geronimo released from state prison and transferred to L.A. County jail, to wait for a decision on a new trial.
After almost 27 years as a political prisoner, Geronimo may soon be free.
When the news broke people everywhere reacted with tremendous joy. Some shouted his name as loud as they could. A progressive news broadcaster remarked that he was never happier to report a story. One of the jurors in the original case, Jeanne Hamilton, who has worked for years to free Geronimo since learning of his frame-up, was overjoyed at the news. Makeshift signs scrawled on pieces of cardboard were taped to phone poles to announce the news in L.A.'s Echo Park. Geronimo's sister, Ginny Pratt, was ecstatic as she talked to news reporters in Los Angeles. People at bus stops in South Central broke into huge smiles as they talked about how happy and surprised they were to hear the news after all these years.
Geronimo Pratt is the longest-held political prisoner in the United States. He was framed for murder almost 27 years ago because he was a revolutionary, a leader of the Black Panther Party. As Judge Dickey's decision lays out, Geronimo did not get a fair trial. The system did everything it could to bury this revolutionary brother in jail for life. They lied, distorted, falsified and covered up crucial evidence. They fabricated "criminal" charges against him. They built their case using a police snitch as the linchpin and went to great lengths to hide this from the defense. Once they got a conviction they threw Geronimo in prison for life and did everything they could to break him. He was held in solitary for years on end. He was denied parole 16 times. The whole railroad was rubberstamped by four separate appeals courts.
But Geronimo stood firm. After more than 25 years, the system was forced to back down. Geronimo ji Jaga Pratt is an inspiration for all the generations from the '60s to now.
Many were surprised by this decision, especially since it came from a judge in Orange County--long-known as a stronghold of ultraconservative politicians. Judge Dickey was appointed by Ronald Reagan when he was governor of California and is known as "pro-law enforcement." This clearly wasn't a situation of a sympathetic judge finally taking an impartial look at the case. This wasn't proof that "the system works" but rather an example of how the system works. They heartlessly kept this revolutionary brother in their dungeons for more than a quarter of a century--even though they knew all along that he was innocent of any crime.
It was only because of the people's struggle to free Geronimo and to expose the system's persecution of a revolutionary leader at every step of the way that the ruling class is finally backing down. Through this struggle, the truth behind this outrageous injustice has been laid out for all to see--a hard lesson about this system, its "justice" system and the powers behind it. In the fight to free Geronimo, a new generation of rebels in the schools and in the streets have learned about the revolutionary movements of the 1960s, the Black Panther Party and the need to step up the struggle against the system today.
The movement has been inspired by Geronimo's strength and his refusal to compromise with the oppressor. And in turn, Geronimo has also been strengthened by the struggle to free him. The last time he was in court in L.A., he saluted supporters in the courtroom with a clenched fist. We need this brother among us!
Judge Dickey's decision is a real exposure and leaves no question about what was going on. (See accompanying article on the decision on page 11.) According to the decision, Geronimo's life sentence is vacated and he is to be released from Mule Creek State Prison and sent to the L.A. County jail until he gets a new trial or the charges are dropped.
As we go to press L.A. District Attorney Gil Garcetti--whose office released information to the defense that a key prosecution witness against Geronimo was a police informant--has refused to say whether he intends to put Geronimo on trial again. In the face of Judge Dickey's decision the L.A. DA was presented with three options: to ask for a new trial, to appeal the decision, or to ask that all charges against Geronimo be dropped.
The Santa Ana decision makes it clear that the prosecution has no case against Geronimo. But the people need to be prepared to intensify the struggle if the DA pursues Geronimo further. If there is a retrial, the criminal nature of the system will be more exposed than ever--in addition to what has already been revealed in Dickey's decision there is even more evidence of illegal government persecution of Geronimo. And Geronimo is still in the system's jail. On Friday, May 30, the presiding judge at the L.A. Superior Court refused to schedule a bond hearing to set bail in the case indicating more vindictive behavior from the justice system.
We need to celebrate and we need to be vigilant and strong in the days to come.
A hearing is scheduled in the Los Angeles Criminal Courts building on Monday, June 2. The purpose of the hearing is to set a time for another hearing to decide whether Geronimo will face another trial. At that time Geronimo's lawyers planned to make several motions, including a motion to release Geronimo immediately on bail and a motion that the case against Geronimo be dropped.
The people demand that the system Free Geronimo Now!
All charges must be dropped immediately! We want to see Geronimo ji Jaga Pratt walking proud and triumphant through the streets--getting and giving love. The system has already stolen too much of his life.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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