Former Black Panther Pratt: No room for bitterness
March 3, 1999
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Former Black Panther Party member Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt, released from prison after serving 27 years, said Wednesday he was not angry or bitter, despite being jailed for a crime he always denied committing.
"I don't think bitterness has a place. I'm more understanding ... ," Pratt said. "Understanding doesn't leave any room for bitterness or anger."
Pratt said of his feelings after being released that "anger eats away at you like battery acid."
Pratt was convicted of the 1968 shooting murder of school teacher Caroline Olsen and the wounding of her husband, Kenneth, on a Santa Monica tennis court.
He was granted an evidentiary hearing in 1997, and was released from prison after Judge Everett W. Dickey ruled that prosecutors in his 1972 trial had concealed evidence that could have produced an acquittal.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office appealed the decision. But an appellate court affirmed Dickey's decision in February, and District Attorney Gil Garcetti said he would not pursue the case further.
Pratt says his case "goes right to the point of why it's crazy to have a death penalty with the kind of system you have to go through to get there."
Pratt said the criminal justice system "needs to be overhauled and it needs to be redone by people like Johnnie (Cochran Jr., his lawyer)."
Cochran, who joined Pratt as they talked to reporters, said he has filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles, certain police officers, the FBI and the government.
He would only say that the compensation being asked for is "substantial."
Pratt said, given the chance, he would ask Garcetti "why would he continue to pursue this situation the way he did, this case, knowing all of the facts, and all of the facts would have a blind man see that I didn't do the murder."
"Other than that," Pratt said, "I wouldn't even waste time with him."
Pratt said his spirituality helped him during his time in prison, especially during the eight years he spent in solitary confinement.
"My mantra was the blues. It would go through my head when I was going through my meditations," he said.
Prosecutor abandons effort to send Pratt back to prison
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