Herman Wallace, Free for Three Days, Has Died
Herman Wallace, the “Angola 3” defendant who was released from prison just three days ago, has died, “Democracy Now!” reported Friday.
Wallace spent some 40 years in solitary confinement in Louisiana’s Angola prison, and was ordered released by a federal judge because women had been excluded from his jury two generations ago. A new trial was ordered, but Wallace was already in the late stages of liver cancer when his release came. He had been taken from the prison to a New Orleans hospice, where he apparently died.
Amy Goodman reported on the case, and Wallace’s release, Thursday:
Herman Wallace is one of the “Angola 3,” along with Robert King, who was released from prison in 2001, and Albert Woodfox, who remains imprisoned in solitary confinement, despite having his sentence overturned on three separate occasions. These three men, all African-American, were locked up in what was considered America’s bloodiest prison, maximum-security Louisiana State Penitentiary, known simply as “Angola.” The sprawling prison is on the grounds of a former slave plantation, with 5,000 prisoners. It’s named for the African country of many of its earlier enslaved occupants. Prisoners toil in the prison’s fields, overseen by armed guards on horseback.
Wallace first went to prison for robbery. He, Woodfox and King formed one of the first prison chapters of the Black Panther Party, organizing inmates to oppose the systemic violence and sexual slavery that pervaded the institution.
Wallace and Woodfox were then convicted of the 1972 murder of a young prison guard, Brent Miller. No physical evidence linked the men to the crime. A bloody fingerprint at the murder scene, which matched neither Wallace’s nor Woodfox’s fingerprints, was ignored by authorities. Wallace and Woodfox believe they were targeted by officials because of their organizing work. After their conviction in 1974, they were put in solitary confinement along with Robert King, who was being punished for another crime, also one that he did not commit.
The Angola 3 crossed paths for the last time on Tuesday as Woodfox and King were allowed to say goodbye to their dying friend, Wallace:
By sheer coincidence, that was when the judge overturned Wallace’s conviction, and they were the ones who gave Wallace the news. Robert King described their final moments together: “Albert’s last words were, ‘Herman, we love you, and you’re going to get out today.’ ” King described how Albert Woodfox leaned over, hands and feet shackled, and kissed Herman goodbye on his forehead. Amnesty International has called on Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to immediately remove Albert Woodfox from solitary confinement.
Wallace was transferred to an ambulance and driven to the Louisiana State University Hospital in New Orleans. He has dreamed of his release for years, and describes it in “Herman’s House”:
“I got to the front gate, and there’s a whole lot of people out there. … I was dancing my way out. I was doing the jitterbug. … I turn around, and I look, and there are all the brothers in the window waving and throwing the fist sign—it’s rough, man. It’s so real. I can feel it even now.”
—Posted by Scott Martelle
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