'Mr. Pratt's fight for justice will continue' In an important development in the civil rights suit brought by former Black Panther party leader Elmer 'Geronimo' Pratt, a federal district judge said today that she would permit the case to proceed, and that she was rejecting efforts by the defendants to have the case thrown out. Judge Christine Snyder said that it would be 'improvident' to dismiss the case at this point.
Mr. Pratt, who spent nearly three decades behind bars, is alleging that his conviction and life sentence for a 1968 murder was the result of a conspiracy by federal and local law enforcement agents. In 1997, Pratt's conviction was invalidated by a California state court that held he had not received a fair trial because evidence had been withheld. It was revealed that the star witness against him, Julius Butler, was a confidential informant for the Los Angeles Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. That piece of evidence, along with a startling array of additional information that surfaced after three decades, has cast new light on the actions of the LAPD, FBI, and Mr. Butler. It is these ties, Pratt alleges in his civil rights suit, that resulted in a coordinated campaign against him.
Defendants in the suit are the city of Los Angeles, five retired LAPD officers, seven former FBI agents, and Julius Butler. Each of the defendants filed motions to dismiss the case on various grounds. As co-counsel for Pratt in the civil right suit, the ACLU filed papers that declared that the motions to dismiss 'cobbled together a string of painfully weak arguments' in which the defendants had 'misstated, mangled, and ignored fundamental legal principles.'
'We are pleased that Judge Snyder recognized the patent deficiencies in the motions to dismiss this case,' said ACLU-SC Chief Counsel Michael Small. 'As a result of today's ruling, Geronimo Pratt's fight for justice will continue.'
In addition to the ACLU, Pratt is also represented by Johnnie L. Cochrane, who was Pratt's lawyer at his original trial, and Stuart Hanlon, a San Francisco civil rights lawyer, who has been part of Pratt's legal team for over a quarter-century.