'The Trial of the Chicago 7': Where is Bobby Seale now? Here's the true story behind Connecticut cop killing
Like in Chicago, Seale had only been in New Haven for a few hours when an alleged Black Panther informant's murder was carried out
There is a saying that we are doomed to repeat history unless we learn from it. The latest political drama on Netflix, 'The Trial of the Chicago 7' has been a film that Aaron Sorkin has been working on for a very long time, one whose release was delayed and later relegated to the streaming platform because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. In the film, we see the 1969 Chicago conspiracy trial reenacted by a star cast that includes Yahya Abdul Mateen II who plays Bobby Seale, the man who co-founded the Black Panther Party.
As is mentioned in the film, the trial was initially for the Chicago 8, which included Seale among the defendants charged on the Rap Brown Law or what was more commonly known as the Anti-Riot Act. As a co-founder of the Black Panther Party, the former Air Force member (from which he was discharged on bad conduct) played a big part in the Panthers movement in the 1960s. Noted for their violent views, they also ran medical clinics and served free breakfasts to schoolchildren, among other programs.
However, it was in 1969 that things began to change for Seale. There was the Chicago conspiracy trial which was the subject of the movie. Seale was given a mistrial on the request of US Attorney William J Bauer, but as mentioned in the movie, there was still the matter of the murder charge Seale was facing in Connecticut. While the movie mentions was it was a cop who was murdered, in real life, the man murdered was Alex Rackley, a Panther who had apparently turned informant for the FBI -- though Rackley's confessions were brought under two days of torture by Field Marshal George Sams, Jr and Landon Williams and the veracity of the confessions had never been verified.
Rackley was shot dead by Panthers Warren Kimbro and Lonnie McLucas on Sams' orders. But how did Seale become involved in the trial?
Like in Chicago, Seale had only been in New Haven for a few hours when Rackley's murder was carried out -- he was visiting to give a speech on the Yale University campus only hours before Rackley was killed. On investigation of Rackley's body, a note to Seale from Ericka Huggins, a prominent New Haven Panther was found. Later, Sams testified that he had been acting on direct orders from Seale, although Kimbro did not corroborate Sams' account. Even though the FBI and the New Haven police investigations revealed no connection between Seale and Rackley's murder, he was still arrested and held for trial in Connecticut.
By October 1970, when Seale's trial began, Sams had been reviled by the Panthers as a traitor and accused of being a renegade psychopath who had killed Rackley on his own and who was pinning the crime on Seale to please his new masters in the "Establishment." It was even suggested that Sams had been in cahoots with the FBI all along, that he was the real informant and had accused and murdered Rackley to cover his tracks. Seale was acquitted of the charges.
After he was released from prison, Seale renounced violence as a means to an end and announced his intentions to start a political career. He ran for mayor of Oakland in 1973, finishing second During the 1970s, the Black Panthers began to fade from the public and Seale took the opportunity to instead talk and write about his experiences and work to improve social services in Black neighborhoods and to improve the environment. Since 2013, Seale has been seeking to produce a screenplay he wrote based on his autobiography, 'Seize the Time: The Eighth Defendant'.
'The Trial of the Chicago 7' is now streaming on Netflix.