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Dying Black Panther Herman Wallace Freed After 40 Years in Solitary Confinement

Society & Culture  (tags: ethics, freedoms, law, rights )

- 1089 days ago -
A terminally ill prisoner who spent more than 40 years in solitary confinement at a US jail has been released and has had his murder conviction overturned.

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Beverly Fjobhunting (86)
Wednesday October 2, 2013, 6:16 pm
Herman Wallace had been serving time in Louisiana for armed robbery when he was found guilty in 1974 of killing a white prison guard two years earlier.

He had been an active member of the Black Panther movement and had organised prison protests, demanding desegregation and better protection of inmates against abuses, before his murder conviction.

At the time, the jail had no black guards and a reputation as one of the most violent in the US.

Mr Wallace, now 71, spent four decades confined to a tiny cell for 23 hours a day.

He is known in the US as one of the 'Angola three' - a group of three Black Panther men who were imprisoned in solitary confinement in Louisiana's notorious Angola prison farm.

The maximum security prison is built on the site of a former plantation worked by slaves from Africa.

The plight of Wallace and fellow Black Panther inmates Albert Woodfox and Robert King was not uncovered until 1997, when a young law student discovered they were still being kept in solitary confinement.

The bloodiest prison in the South
Mr Wallace and Woodfox, who founded the Angola chapter of the Black Panthers, were charged and convicted of the 1972 stabbing of white prison guard Brent Miller, 23, reportedly knifed more than 30 times in a prison riot.

Both men said they were innocent from the start, arguing they were framed for their politics and protests. Supporters say no physical evidence ties the men to the murder.

A 2008 Los Angeles Times account of Miller's 1972 murder called Angola's prison farm the "bloodiest in the South, where guards routinely beat prisoners and inmates killed one another with crude knives.

"New Orleans musicians sang ominously about it like Greek poets evoking the underworld of Hades," the article said.

King has since been released, however Woodfox remains in prison.

Wallace may have just days left to live
On Tuesday a judge ordered Mr Wallace be released because the inmate has liver cancer and is not expected to live much longer.

Judge Brian Jackson also reversed Mr Wallace's conviction because there were no women on the jury that indicted him.

The judge voided the "conviction and sentence, on the ground that systematic exclusion of women from the grand jury that indicted him violated the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection of the laws".

Mr Wallace's lawyers say his murder conviction had rested on the testimony of four prisoners who later withdrew their statements.

Mr Wallace left the prison in an ambulance to get treatment for his advanced cancer.

Amnesty International, which had called for his release, welcomed the decision but lamented it came only as he has "only days or hours left to live".

"No ruling can erase the cruel, inhuman and degrading prison conditions he endured for more than 41 years - confined alone to a tiny cell for 23 hours a day," the group's executive director, Steven Hawkins, said in a statement.

Mr Wallace's defence team pledged that litigation challenging the inmate's "unconstitutional confinement in solitary confinement for four decades will continue in his name".


Terry V. (30)
Wednesday October 2, 2013, 7:50 pm
Makes me want to cry....................................

Barry AWAY T. (938)
Thursday October 3, 2013, 9:40 am
Awesome. would be nice if the last of the 3 got out too. not that it would reverse decades of solitary confinemeny. Ah, the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Rose Becke (140)
Thursday October 3, 2013, 9:16 pm
Bloody wonderful

Judy C. (104)
Thursday October 3, 2013, 10:08 pm
Great news, Beverly. Thank you!

Michael Kirkby (97)
Friday October 4, 2013, 3:40 pm
Southern justice for you. At least he gets to die free. Damn shame.

Carmen S. (617)
Friday October 4, 2013, 3:46 pm
Thanks Beverly, hope he has a few happy days.

Frank R. (51)
Friday October 4, 2013, 4:01 pm
Thank you

Dale G. (8)
Friday October 4, 2013, 4:24 pm
Dance on, Brother Herman.

Jonathan Harper (0)
Saturday October 5, 2013, 4:00 am

Sharon Davidson (373)
Saturday October 5, 2013, 6:44 am
read signed and passed on

Theodore Shayne (56)
Saturday October 5, 2013, 1:16 pm
RIP Mr. Wallace. You're free now.

Nimue Michelle Pendragon Gaze (339)
Sunday October 6, 2013, 4:20 am
He died on Friday after only 3 days of freedom. The great american justice system, what a joke. RIP Herman.
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