[sixties-l] Fwd: Geronimo Pratt: 'Last Man Standing'

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: 11/04/00

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    >Date: Fri, 3 Nov 2000
    >From: firefly192@aol.com (Firefly192)
    >Subject: Geronimo Pratt: 'Last Man Standing'
    >Here's an interesting review of an important new book on racial issues:
    >"Last Man Standing: The Tragedy and Triumph of Geronimo Pratt"
    >by Jack Olsen
    >Doubleday & Co. 500 pp.
    >'Last Man' tells compelling story of broken system
    >By Steve Weinberg
    >Special to The Seattle Times and Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
    >A few years ago, most people reacted skeptically whenever I started to talk
    >about the latest wrongful-conviction case that had come to my attention. There
    >are too many safeguards in the system for wrongful convictions to occur, my
    >acquaintances said. Police, prosecutors, juries and judges would never send
    >innocent men and women to prison, they said.
    >         Author Jack Olsen has known for a long time that wrongful 
    > convictions occur
    >more often than generally acknowledged. In 1991, he published "Predator: Rape,
    >Madness and Injustice in Seattle." The book revolved around the wrongful
    >conviction of Steve Titus for rape, and how the doggedness of Seattle Times
    >reporter Paul Henderson led to Titus' freedom. "Predator" was the 24th book by
    >Olsen, a Seattle-area writer who turned true-crime stories into an art 
    >form.. .
    >         With "Last Man Standing," Olsen returns to the 
    > wrongful-conviction theme, at a
    >juncture when it has become accepted as the conventional wisdom. His return to
    >the theme is welcome: "Predator" was a mighty good book, but "Last Man
    >Standing" is a great book, as compelling and thorough as any
    >wrongful-conviction book I have read - and I have read most of them.
    >         Olsen chose a high-profile case for his new book - the story of Elmer
    >"Geronimo" Pratt had been in the news since shortly after the 1968 murder of a
    >woman during a robbery on a Santa Monica, Calif., public tennis court. Because
    >Pratt, a decorated Vietnam veteran who moved to California after a 
    >idyllic Louisiana bayou upbringing, was widely known as a leader of the Black
    >Panther Party, his name stuck in the minds of news consumers everywhere.
    >         Despite the high-profile nature of the murder case, little had 
    > been written
    >in-depth. As a result, Olsen's book goes where no other journalist had gone.
    >         The book opens during 1975, in medias res. Pratt is incarcerated 
    > at San
    >Quentin, protesting his innocence despite five years in solitary 
    >confinement as
    >a convicted murderer. Law student Stuart Hanlon is visiting Pratt on the
    >recommendation of a friend. Hanlon senses that perhaps Pratt is innocent. So
    >Hanlon calls on the lawyer who defended Pratt - the accomplished but not yet
    >famous (as in O.J. Simpson) Johnnie Cochran. Cochran considers his loss in the
    >Pratt trial the most devastating of his career.
    >         At the meeting, Cochran tells Hanlon that Pratt "is a victim of a 
    > frame-up
    >that goes so high it's scary. I wouldn't be surprised if the FBI was 
    >Wondering about the conspiratorial tone of that statement, Hanlon asks, 
    >the proof?" Cochran replies, "That's the problem."
    >         Olsen vividly tells the story of the collaboration between the 
    > polished
    >African-American lawyer Cochran and the unpolished Jewish-Irish lawyer Hanlon
    >as they work year-in, year-out, decade upon decade, to free Pratt, one of the
    >most remarkable individuals they have ever encountered.
    >         After placing his readers at the 1975 meetings between Pratt and 
    > Hanlon, then
    >Hanlon and Cochran, Olsen jumps back to the convict's upbringing in Morgan
    >City, La., 99 miles from New Orleans. Olsen crams a mini-biography into a few
    >chapters before detailing the murder, the questionable law-enforcement
    >investigation, the indictment, the trial, the imprisonment and the decades of
    >prison torture that probably would have broken just about anybody other than
    >         Although readers know that Pratt will eventually be exonerated 
    > and freed from
    >prison, the suspense in the book is close to unbearable: How can the
    >prosecutors continue to insist that Pratt killed the woman? How can Pratt 
    >innocence from a prison cell? Will the prison authorities conveniently allow
    >him to die behind bars? Will Pratt's loving siblings, mother and friends crack
    >because of the ordeal? Will any judge, anywhere, even listen to the new
    >evidence of actual innocence?
    >         Some readers might say the book ends happily - Pratt is at 
    > liberty, and wins a
    >large monetary settlement from the city of Los Angeles as well as the FBI. But
    >these cases never really have happy endings: Lives are ruined, while the 
    >criminals remain at large to kill or rape again.
    >         Meanwhile, those responsible for the wrongful convictions, 
    > especially the
    >prosecutors, are hardly ever punished. Maybe Olsen's book will help generate
    >the outrage to fix a system that convicts far too many innocent individuals,
    >then refuses to admit error.
    >         ^" Steve Weinberg has just published an investigation of 
    > prosecutorial
    >misconduct in American Lawyer magazine. He is professor of journalism at the
    >University of Missouri, a contributor to the Columbia Journalism Review, and
    >founding director of IRE --  Investigative Reporters and Editors. Author Jack
    >Olsen may be reached at www.jackolsen.com.

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