Received via email from the National Jericho Network:
According to an article in the Baltimore Sun:
Former Black Panther leader and convicted cop killer Marshall “Eddie” Conway was released after four decades behind bars on Tuesday, after striking an agreement with prosecutors over a challenge to his conviction based on of the way judges explained the law to juries in old cases.
Conway, now 67, spent more than 40 years behind bars after being convicted in the 1970 killing of Baltimore Police Officer Donald Sager, 35, who was killed in an ambush. Conway has maintained his innocence, saying that he was set up, and denied any role in the attack. For years there has been a campaign by supporters to get him pardoned.
His release Tuesday after a hearing in Baltimore Circuit Court was a result of the “Unger” decision, under which the state’s highest court ruled that jurors had been given improper instructions in cases tried before 1980. More than a dozen people were released last summer as a result of the decision, and officials have said as many as 200 others could be released.
Under the agreement, Conway’s conviction stands but he was re-sentenced to time served. He will be on supervised probation for the next five years, the agreement says.
Robert J. Boyle, one of Conway’s attorneys, said that while Conway has always maintained his innocence in the shooting, “he accepts this disposition and he willingly went along with it.”
But Boyle added that had Conway decided to press his claim under the Unger decision, he could have mounted a strong defense in any retrial.
“It was an extremely weak case against him,” said Boyle, who has worked on a number of cases involving wrongfully convicted Black Panthers.
The Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People hailed Conway’s release as a triumph.
“Today is a monumental day for the thousands of Marylanders and the millions around the world that have championed the release of Marshall “Eddie” Conway for a very long time,” said President Tessa Hill-Aston. “The release of Conway after four decades of imprisonment is an important page turner in this tragic story. … Our prayers remain with him as he makes the transition to freedom.”
But police union officials said they were troubled by the release. In addition to Sager’s death, another officer, Stanley Sierakowsky, was wounded.
“It’s a very difficult thing to learn, after all these years, that he’s not going to fulfill the sentence he was given, which was life,” said Gene Ryan, vice president of the city’s Fraternal Order of Police lodge.