Original commentary by Amy Goodman published on TruthDig.com March 5, 2014.
Marshall “Eddie” Conway walked free from prison this week, just one month shy of 44 years behind bars. He was convicted of the April 1970 killing of a Baltimore police officer. Conway has always maintained his innocence. At the time of his arrest and trial, he was a prominent member of the Baltimore chapter of the Black Panther Party, the militant black-rights organization that was the principal focus of COINTELPRO, the FBI’s illegal “counterintelligence program.” The FBI, under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover, surveilled and infiltrated Black Panther chapters from coast to coast, disrupting their organizing activities, often with violence.
(Image: Ars Skeptica/cc/flickr)The prosecution alleged Conway was behind the fatal shooting of Baltimore police officer Donald Sager. The case hinged on the testimony of a police officer and a jailhouse informant, who claimed Conway described the crime while they were sharing a cell. Former Baltimore NAACP President Marvin “Doc” Cheatham, a longtime supporter of Conway’s, told The Baltimore Sun: “This was when the COINTEL program was at its height. … They did not have a witness who saw him there. They had no fingerprints or evidence there. They basically convicted him on the basis of what we now call an informant.” A global movement grew calling for Conway’s release. In 2001, the Baltimore City Council passed a resolution asking the Maryland governor to pardon him.