Sent: Thursday, March 08, 2001
Hearing Held on Pardon for Former Black Panther
A hearing was held Thursday afternoon, March 1, 2001, before the House
Judiciary Committee of the Maryland General Assembly on a resolution (HJR
24), urging the Governor to grant a pardon to Marshall Edward Conway.
Conway has been incarcerated in Maryland for 30 years as a result of his
in the Black Panther Party. The resolution is sponsored by Baltimore City
Delegate Clarence C. Davis (D-45).
Thursday's hearing is the first time a legislative body in the United
States has considered pardon for a black prisoner in jail solely for his
Dr. Rebecca Cohen presented documents to the Committee showing that
local FBI and Baltimore police had specifically targeted Conway in the six
months prior to his arrest in 1970, because he was an active Black Panther
and a leader in his community. Baltimore City Police Officer Donald Sager
was murdered and his partner injured in a shooting on April 24,1970. Two
members of the Baltimore Black Panther Party were arrested that night and
subsequently convicted of the crimes. Conway was arrested three days later
on the tip of an "unidentified informant." When he was arrested, Conway was
24 years old, the father of two sons, an Army veteran and a full-time US
Postal Service employee.
Conway was tried before the other defendants, even though there was no
physical evidence tying him to the crime. After he was refused the attorney
of his choice, his court appointed attorney interviewed him for only 45
minutes before the trial. He was convicted on the questionable testimony of
a police informer who was placed in his cell over his written protest.
Delegate Davis reminded the Committee that, at the time of Conway's
arrest and conviction, J. Edgar Hoover was systematically using the FBI to
threaten civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and even
former President John Kennedy.
Attorney Robert Boyle briefed the Committee on the illegal activities of
the FBI's "Counter-Intelligence Program" (COINTELPRO), which targeted
The FBI's records show a pattern of false accusations, arrests and
convictions of black political activists. Several high FBI officials were
tried and convicted for their role in the FBI's illegal activities and were
later pardoned by Ronald Reagan. "At the time of his trial, Conway accused
the police of conspiring to jail him," Boyle said. "This may have seemed
far-fetched to the jury at the time. Evidence that it was true in this and
other cases wasn't available until years later."
Warren Nelson, a Conway friend and supporter, spoke about Conway as a
person. "Others might be bitter after unjustly spending 30 years in prison,"
Nelson said, "but Conway is not." A role model to other inmates, he has
written grants and created education programs for prisoners and has earned
several degrees, all while holding down a full-time job in the prison,
Nelson told the Committee.
Further information on Conway's legal case is available from local
attorney Mardon Walker, 410-669-3169. Robert Boyle may be reached at
212-431-0229. Delegate Davis may be reached at 410-841-3257.
The Judiciary Committee voted on Delegate Davis' resolution on Eddie's
pardon: 19 Against and 2 For the resolution.
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