After nearly two years in prison, Huey P. Newton is free.
Newton, founder and Minister of Defense of the Black Panther Party, was released Wednesday on $50,000 bail while awaiting a new trial on charges stemmin from the shooting of an Oakland Policeman in 1967.
Convicted in September of 1968 of voluntary manslaughter, Newton was serving a two to fifteen year sentence in a California penal farm. However, the conviction was overturned by the California Court of Appeals on May 29 on the grounds that the trial judge had failed properly to instruct the jury.
The judge had neglected to tell the jurors that if Newton's contention that he had been wounded and unconscious at the time of the crime was true then he could not be found guilty of the shooting.
The appeals court added that it was "reasonably probable" that, had this been pointed out to the jury, Newton might have received a more favorable verdict.
The State Supreme Court upheld the reversal last week and ordered Newton released on bail.
Bail hearing took only 16 minutes Wednesday. After the Court denied a motion by Charles R. Garry, Newton's lawyer for bail reduction, another defense lawyer deposited a $50,000 cashier's check.
In denying the motion, the judge pointed out that Eldridge Cleaver, Minister of Information of the BPP, had posted an identical bond before fleeing to exile in Algiers.
Flanked by David Hilliard, Panther Chief of Staff, Newton emerged from the courthouse to mingle with hundreds of Panther supporters who had been gathering in the street outside since 7 a.m.
As the crowd surged into the street and blocked traffic, Newton climbed on top of a car, stripped off his grey prison uniform shirt, and shouted, "You have the power and the power is with the people."
He then left for a reunion with his family.
Newton faces a new trial for manslaughter beginning Sept. 25.