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Former Black Panther freed on $25,000 bail


June 10, 1997
Web posted at: 3:15 p.m. EDT (1515 GMT)

SANTA ANA, California (CNN) -- Superior Court Judge Everett Dickey set bail Tuesday for Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt at $25,000. The former Black Panther was released this afternoon after 27 years in prison.

Pratt, 49, entered the Orange County Superior Court wearing an orange jumpsuit. Hundreds of spectators -- including Pratt's family, friends and former Black Panther members -- packed the courtroom and lined its halls.

Pratt, who was 22 when he was jailed for the 1968 murder of a Santa Monica teacher, has said the first thing he wanted to do, if released, was visit his mother.

Dickey ruled last month that Pratt did not receive a fair trial in the murder of Caroline Olsen, ordering prosecutors to either give Pratt a new trial or drop the case. The conviction was overturned in light of new evidence that the chief witness against him was a police and FBI informant who lied under oath. Pratt was convicted in 1972.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti has said he would appeal last month's decision because he saw no new evidence of Pratt's innocence. Garcetti has yet to file the appeal.

Pratt has maintained his innocence in the murder throughout, saying he was in Oakland at the time of the killing. Additionally, a former FBI agent now says Pratt was framed.


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