Black Panther Leader, Convicted of Killing Cop, Released from Prison

Justin Fenton et al., Baltimore Sun, March 4, 2014

Former Black Panther leader Marshall “Eddie” Conway walked free Tuesday after spending four decades behind bars for killing a Baltimore police officer—making his one of the highest-profile cases affected by a high court decision that has cut short prison sentences for dozens of felons in recent years.

Conway, now 67, always said that he was innocent, alleging political motives in the prosecution of a 1970 shooting that killed Officer Donald Sager, 35, and injured another officer. Over the years many supporters, including prominent Baltimore politicians, have joined his cause.

Police union officials and Sager’s family said they still believe Conway was guilty. But prosecutors—faced with the prospect of retrying a more than 40-year-old case built on the testimony of a fellow police officer and a jailhouse interview—said they could not have convicted him again.

Conway sought a new trial under a 2012 decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals, which said verdicts before 1980 were invalid because of faulty jury instructions. Under a deal with prosecutors, Conway agreed to abandon his court fight in exchange for his release on time served.

Conway walked out of the courthouse about 3 p.m. and then went to a friend’s house to eat a plate of vegetable lasagna with his two sons and other supporters, according to Dominique Stevenson, a longtime advocate who co-wrote a book with him. Conway declined to be interviewed.


Supporters have long believed that Conway was set up because of his role with the Black Panthers, and on Tuesday the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and others hailed his release, calling it a “monumental day” and “an important page turner in this tragic story.”


Since the 2012 ruling by Maryland’s highest court, dozens have fought their convictions and prosecutors have made deals to release many of them, opening old wounds for victims’ families.


Conway grew up in West Baltimore and joined the Army at age 18. When he returned from a tour of duty, he went to work for Johns Hopkins Hospital and got involved in civil rights work, eventually joining the Black Panther Party and taking a leadership role as it began a Baltimore operation.

But in 1969 he began to suspect that the chapter had been organized by a government infiltrator working for the National Security Agency, and met with national Panther leaders to make plans to purge infiltrators.

Those plans were in motion, Conway said, when on April 24, 1970, authorities said Sager and Officer Stanley Sierakowski arrived in the 1200 block of Myrtle Ave. to investigate a purported domestic disturbance. Gunfire broke out after they returned to their car. Sager was found dead in the cruiser and Sierakowski lay wounded in the street.

Two men—Jack Ivory Johnson, 23, and James E. Powell, 35—were found hiding under the steps of a home during a police manhunt. Police concluded that Baltimore’s Black Panthers had orchestrated the ambush as an initiation for new members and that Conway had led them in the attack.

The prosecutor in the case said the motive was no theory: “That was Jack Ivory Johnson’s confession,” former Assistant State’s Attorney Peter Ward recalled in a 2001 interview. “He said he and Powell were interested in joining the Panther Party and that the rite was to ‘off a couple of pigs.’“

Crucial to Conway’s conviction was testimony by a police officer, Roger Nolan, who said he exchanged gunfire with Conway in an alley near the shooting scene. The state’s case also relied on a jailhouse informant named Charles Reynolds, who testified that Conway detailed the crime to him as they sat together in a cell, including a little-known detail about a watch stolen from Sierakowski.


Supporters have focused on the idea that Conway was set up. The Panthers at the time were under surveillance by the Counter Intelligence Program, or COINTELPRO, a group of federal and local law enforcement agents whose mission was to “neutralize” organizations deemed subversive.

In 2001, the Baltimore City Council, including now-President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, passed a resolution urging Gov. Parris N. Glendening to pardon Conway, calling him a political prisoner innocent of murder. Through a spokeswoman, Young declined to comment Tuesday night.

NAACP chapter President Tessa Hill-Aston said the organization does not discount the fact that a police officer lost his life in the 1970 shooting. But she said Conway’s prosecution came during an era in which black leaders were targeted by government officials to silence them.

“There were lots of African-American men who were accused and had bad trials,” she said.

Dr. Marvin L. “Doc” Cheatham Sr., a former Baltimore NAACP president who helped organize rallies on Conway’s behalf, said Conway was convicted with no physical evidence and that the officer who identified Conway did not see him at the crime scene.


Conway’s influence has extended well beyond prison walls. Last year, the Eddie Conway Liberation Institute was founded at Morgan State University, training students in policy debate to affect political change, said its director, Adam J. Jackson.


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  • David Ashton

    Conway for the Supreme Court, why not?

  • thomas edward

    “black panther leader”
    This jerk couldn’t lead anything. He’ll be back behind bars before you know it.

    • Mergatroyd

      Not until he joins his homies posin’, representin’, intimidatin’ and threatenin’ white folk in front of voting venues during the midterm election. After that, he’ll be rounded up and sent back to the pokey.

    • Cid Campeador

      Or under the ground.

  • DudeWheresMyCountry?

    What I learned from this article: Morgan State degrees and credentials are worthless. The rest of the piece, concerning all the African ridiculousness I was previously well aware of.

  • Pro_Whitey

    These stories keep coming, and I just keep repeating to myself, “It would be so much easier if we just got rid of the blacks!” Back to Africa, all expenses paid as long as you renounce your U.S. citizenship.

  • MekongDelta69

    Well – since Debo Adegbile (genuine European-American name, don’cha know) won’t be heading up Eric Hold-Em-Up’s civil wrongs division, I nominate Eddie Conway for the post.

    He meets all the quals. – He’s a black felon; he was a member of the BPP; he killed a White cop; he insisted he was ‘innocent’ (of course); he’s a ‘political prisoner’; he’s had a ‘liberation institute’ named after him at a black college; the NAACP loves this guy.

    What more could NoBama want?

    He’s PERFECT…

    • Snazzy Snook

      LMFAO @ “civil wrongs division” .. Haahahaa .. Good one ..

  • Jesse James

    A monumental day for black tribalism and injustice.

    • black scumbag = hero.
      Rational/smart black (Herman Cain) = loser.
      As a whole, blacks are simply hopeless.

      • blight14

        Its as if the 99% give the rest a bad name……

      • Mergatroyd

        White = 100% guilty in perpetuity for world crimes like slavery and colonialism.
        Blacks= Political prisoner of white-devil, racist system.

  • So CAL Snowman

    I bet Hollywood has already lined up Morgan Freeman to play this guy in next years Oscar winner for best picture : “White Lies, A Black Panther Story”

    • Oil Can Harry

      Why not? Hollywood’s already made films portraying guilty-as-hell black murderers Hurricane Carter and Tookie Williams (played by Denzel Washington and Jamie Foxx, respectively) as innocent.

      There was even a 1990s TV movie that claimed Atlanta Child Killer Wayne Williams was railroaded!

      • Snazzy Snook

        Hollywood certainly does love their pets and they will protect them at ALL costs, right ?

  • negrolocaust

    a black baltimore city police officer just beat a 7 month old jack russell terrier to death and then emailed pictures to the dogs owner then threw the dog in the dumpster. he said because it went on his rug. side note if you are a white male the only way you will get hired on the bcpd is if you are openly gay or preferably transgendered. they just had a drive to hire transgenders. not a joke or sarcasm.

    • gemjunior

      Only an ape could do such a thing.

      • Mergatroyd

        I’ve seen photos of apes in zoos with pet kittens and puppies as companions. The monster that killed that poor puppy is not an ape, he is a non-human beast.

        • gemjunior

          I guess, that is a better title I suppose. I believe that we cannot understand how someone could do something like that. I mean “we” as civilized human beings.

      • That gives apes a bad name.

  • Diana Moon Glampers

    …decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals, which said verdicts before 1980 were invalid…

    Well that’s one way to let all the murderers out. Nice.

    • dukem1

      well, if there’s an upside, they can let ’em all out, but they just go back to the hood, and do whatever it is they do among their own…

  • Luca

    With Obama and Holder pushing to hire felons, Conway will soon have a nice cushy job as a navigator for Obamacare.

  • dave

    Obama and Holder to have Conway at White house for Welcome home party.

  • jane johnson

    He’s out just in time for the 2014 midterms. Wouldn’t he make a great poll-watcher? Can’t have any voter intimidation now, can we?

    • John K

      Maybe he can even vote a few times himself.

      • jane johnson

        It’s actually possible, if Holder’s crew can get felons “re-enfranchised” by November. It’s that nasty old “disparate impact” thing again, nome sayin’?

        • John K

          It’s definitely possible because it’s happened in the last two presidential elections.

      • Germanicus

        …and FOR himself. He can run for election now can he not?

  • John K

    I have to wonder if these “prominent Baltimore politicians” are also black. To blacks, it’s not about the crime committed, it’s about setting black criminals free to roam the streets looking for more white victims. The universal slogan for blacks is “I din’ do nuffin’!”

    • Illegal activities are a source of pride for blacks.

      • Mergatroyd

        It’s known as getting one over on The Man. The press encourages black criminality by covering it up and is in full compliance.

      • Snazzy Snook

        Yes,because it gives them skreet kred , ya feel me ?

  • DudeWheresMyCountry?

    “If I had a daddy he would’ve looked (and behaved) like Marshall “Eddie” Conway” Signed, Obama

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    Out in time for the midterm elections to join the Black Panthers in front of polling venues, threatening and intimidating White voters.

    Sager’s son, David, who was seven at the time of his father’s death, said he was devastated. David Sager said he was warned of the outcome more than a month ago

    “My mother passed away two years ago, and in a way I’m glad that she’s not around to see this,” he said. “This is a very sad day. I think this is another tragedy on our justice system, one of a string of tragedies.”

    • John K

      Another tragedy: blacks still roam the streets of America.

      • Cid Campeador

        And their becoming more vicious every day. The know that they have Carte Blanche when Whites are the targets. The AGOTUS told them so.

  • MBlanc46

    Officer Sager did not get to walk free today.

  • IstvanIN

    This could be a case of a wrong man railroaded, it does happen, White men have been sent to prison for most if not all of their lives when the prosecutor KNEW they were innocent. There was a famous case in Boston a few years back where the men were either dead or in their 70s when exonerated. Hopefully this guy is innocent if he is being let out, but I am suspicious since blacks seem to support the most viscous killers and rapists no matter how guilty they are.

    • Snazzy Snook

      Trust me, he’s not innocent ..

    • NoMosqueHere

      Vicious black panther kills white cop? Naw, it’s a frame up!

  • Forty years in the hoosgow is a long time. I did only three, and it changed me.

  • 2eRep

    Maryland had to rule this way or risk an epic chimpout in Baltimore. A white life is worth nothing now.

  • Snazzy Snook

    2012 decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals, which said verdicts
    before 1980 were invalid because of faulty jury instructions ” . = Get out of jail free card ,period..
    SMFH amazing ..

  • Mergatroyd

    Was the girlfriend white?

  • Cid Campeador

    MAybe someone will take him out. Revenge is a dish best served cold.

  • gemjunior

    What is a speed bag?
    He belongs in hell.

  • Who Me?

    Somebody at the accounting division figured out it’d be cheaper to the American taxpayers to release him and let him live on his undeserved SS than to keep him in prison any longer, and at his age, he’s probably past re-offending.

  • Dale McNamee

    The NAACP is totally rotted…Totally unworthy of any respect…

    I once admired them ( a long time ago ) but not now, not ever !

  • John

    A pox on all appeal attorneys. This toad should never again see the light of freedom or be allowed amongst the society of actual human beings. One has to wonder if his “soul brother” weren’t camping out in and stinking up the White House, if this would have happened.

  • Fathercoughlin

    Lets hope some of that tragic black-on-black violence comes his way.

  • Fathercoughlin

    And dating

  • Mason Gull

    If I were a gambler, I’d wager that no one here knows how screwed up the original trial proceedings were. They didn’t even let him appoint his own lawyer. I usually agree with the comments on this website but it just seems like people are unfairly judging the black guy without even knowing the story.

  • NoMosqueHere

    Yeah, really scary guy. I hope he made it out alive.

  • LHathaway

    “But she said Conway’s prosecution came during an era in which black leaders were targeted by government officials to silence them”.

    Yes, all during this time where MLK was meeting with presidents, Malcolm X’s rants were making mainstream newpapers and black student unions were marching on every campus asking for black student centers and even more special programs and recognition for just them and black police organizations were being formed in every police department and journalist associations and bricklayers associations and during black NAACP agitiation and TV specials about ‘civil right’, yes, during all that time the government was trying to silence blacks. . .