Former LA Black Panther leader Pratt dies at 63

June 3, 2011 - 12:57 AM

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt, a former Los Angeles Black Panther leader who spent 27 years in prison on a murder conviction that was later overturned, has died. He was 63.

Lawyer Stuart Hanlon told The Associated Press Thursday that Pratt died at his home in a small village in Tanzania, where he had lived for at least half a decade.

Hanlon, who helped overturn the conviction, says Pratt's family called him from Tanzania and told him Pratt died this week.

Pratt was convicted in 1972 of robbing and fatally shooting schoolteacher Caroline Olsen on a Santa Monica tennis court.

But he always maintained his innocence, claiming he was targeted by the government because it was out to persecute the Black Panther Party.

Los Angeles prosecutors announced two years after his conviction was overturned in 1997 that they would not seek to retry him.