Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Forty years of solitude in Angola

For 40 years, Herman Wallace sat in a tiny cell for 23 hours a day in the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola. He spent those years in solitary confinement after he and two other inmates, Robert King and Albert Woodfox, were convicted of killing a prison guard in 1973. It was a crime all three deny committing.

In 1967 Mr. Wallace was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to 50 years behind bars. While in prison he helped start up the first chapter of the Black Panther Party behind bars. Shortly thereafter a prison guard was murdered and Mr. Wallace, along with Mr. King and Mr. Woodfox, found themselves faciug trial for murder.

The Angola Three, as they are known, were all placed in solitary confinement. Mr. King was released from prison in 2001 while Mr. Woodfox is still in solitary confinement.

Earlier this year Mr. Wallace was diagnosed with liver cancer and it is believed he has but a few days to live. His supporters petitioned the state for compassionate release - but their pleas fell on deaf ears.

Yesterday Federal district judge Brian Jackson overturned Mr. Wallace's 1974 conviction on the grounds that his right to due process was violated when women were excluded from the jury that convicted him. Judge Jackson ordered the State of Louisiana to release Mr. Wallace at once. An ambulance was sent to the prison.

However, showing the bull-headed stubbornness of a prosecutor who refuses to acknowledge that a conviction was unjust, East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore challenged the judge's order and the state refused to release Mr. Wallace.

For the State of Louisiana it was a fight to see that Mr.Wallace didn't die as a free man. It wasn't enough that he's was locked up in a tiny cell for over 40 years. It wasn't enough that he was denied meaningful contact with the outside world. It wasn't enough that Mr. Wallace's life is almost over. The State of Louisiana was bound and determined to take not only Mr. Wallace's life, but his dignity as well.

But, despite their efforts to keep see Mr. Wallace die in prison, the state failed. Late last night Herman Wallace was released from the Louisiana State Penitentiary. The litigation surrounding his case will continue after he has taken his final breath.

Herman Wallace will die a free man.

See also:

"Cancer-stricken Anglola 3 prisoner Herman Wallace given just days to live after 42 years in solitary," Democracy Now! (Sept. 30, 2013)

Herman's House: The Film

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