crimesider

Former leader of Black Panthers released from prison after 40 years

CBS Baltimore

BALTIMORE -- After being behind bars for more than 40 years, a former leader of the Black Panthers who was convicted of killing a police officer is now a free man, CBS Baltimore reports.

Marshall "Eddie" Conway, 67, was released from prison Tuesday. Civil rights activists say it's a big win but others are upset that he's walking free.

Conway was convicted of killing a Baltimore City police officer in 1970 but civil rights activists say he didn't get a fair trial.

"It just shows you that things can come right after a wrong," said Baltimore NAACP President Tessa Hill-Aston.

Conway was convicted of the 1970 murder of Baltimore City police officer Donald Sager. Sager and his partner were ambushed by three gunmen while responding to a domestic disturbance call in west Baltimore.

Conway was a leader in the Black Panther Party, a controversial militant organization. He's always claimed he was framed for the crime.

The NAACP has fought for his release.

"If you read the case, there was no evidence, no eyewitness, no forensics," said former NAACP President Marvin "Doc" Cheatham.

While his conviction stands, Conway was re-sentenced to time served after he challenged whether the jury in his case was given proper instructions.

But officials with the Baltimore City police union say they are troubled by Conway's release.

"It's a difficult thing to learn after all these years that he's not going to fulfill the sentence he was given, which was death," the vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police told the Baltimore Sun.

Conway's supporters say they understand the frustration.

"I can understand them saying that because they lost one of their partners. They lost one of their members," Hill-Aston said.

But they say Conway was not to blame.

Officer Sager's family has also expressed frustration over the years with the push for Conway's release.

Under an agreement, Conway will be on supervised probation for the next five years.

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