In 1970, Marshall “Eddie” Conway was convicted of murdering Donald Sager, a Baltimore police officer. At the time, Conway was the Minister of Defense of the Black Panther Party in Baltimore. Sager and two other police officers were ambushed in their patrol cars by three men as they answered a call for domestic disturbance. The gunman killed Sager and wounded another officer.
Over the years, the NAACP has challenged Conway’s incarceration on the grounds that he was not given a fair trial. According to the organization, Conway was convicted although there was no physical evidence, no eyewitness and no forensic evidence presented.
Civil rights activists petitioned for a pardon for Conway but were refused. The other two defendants arrested with Conway were sentenced as well. One passed away in prison and the other was released in 2009 after a mistake by the trial judge was uncovered.
After serving more than 44 years in prison the, 67 year-old was released after a Maryland’s Supreme Court ruling that in cases tried before 1980, jurors were not adequately instructed.
While the ruling reopens the cases for a retrial, Conway waived his right to a new trial and opted for time-served for the crime and five years probation. Many of the police officers involved in the case are upset about Conway’s release and believe he’s still guilty.
While in jail, Conway founded a prison mentoring program which helped young black male prisoners. At Morgan State University, an HBCU in Maryland, the Eddie Conway Liberation Institute trains students in public policy and political activism.