In Black Panther in Exile: The Pete O’Neal Story, Paul Magnarella—a veteran of the United Nations Criminal Tribunals and O’Neal’s attorney during his appeals process from 1997 to 2001—describes his unsuccessful attempts to overturn what he argues was a wrongful conviction. Read below for a short Q&A with the author.
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Why do you think telling this story is important, and what new perspective does your book add that hasn’t previously been touched on?
PM: This book offers an in depth legal analysis of the judicial errors and constitutional violations inflicted on a Black Panther leader by a federal court in 1970.
What do you hope your book adds to the ongoing conversation on social and human rights?
PM: The book shows how justice for a controversial Black civil rights activist was denied by a U.S. federal court that subsequently refused to acknowledge and remedy its own judicial errors.
What aspects about the BPP do you feel are particularly important that people often forget and/or have been erased from history?
PM: Because the FBI’s COINTEL program actively fed false, negative information to the media about the BPP, the BPP’s many beneficial community support programs were misrepresented and slighted.
If readers are to take away one thing from this book, what do you hope it is?
PM: Despite the injustices afflicted on Pete O’Neal by an American federal court that refuses to recognize its own distortion of justice, Pete and his wife Charlotte have called on the spirit of the Panther to record enormous achievements for Tanzanians and for non-Tanzanians whose lives they have touched. This book weaves personal, historical, and legal stories together to show how the human spirit, even after being assaulted by the state establishment, can survive and flourish.
Paul J. Magnarella is emeritus professor of criminology, law, and society at the University of Florida. He has served as an expert on mission with the United Nations Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and as a legal researcher for the United Nations Tribunal for Rwanda. Magnarella is the author of many titles, including Human Rights in Our Time and Justice in Africa: Rwanda’s Genocide, Its Courts, and the UN Criminal Tribunal.