A federal judge has just ordered the immediate release of Herman Wallace, who was held in solitary confinement for more than 40 years. Judge Brian A. Jackson, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, overturned Wallace’s conviction because an improperly chosen grand jury that excluded women jurors violated the Fourteenth Amendment.
Wallace, who is dying of liver cancer, is known as one of the “Angola 3,” named for the Louisiana prison where he and two other men — Albert Woodfox and Robert King Wilkerson — collectively spent more than 100 years in solitary confinement for the 1972 murder of a prison guard.
Wallace was already serving time for a bank robbery when he came under investigation for the 1972 murder. According to court records, more than 200 inmates — none of whom were white — were questioned. Wallace’s conviction was based largely on the testimony of another inmate who received special treatment in exchange for his testimony.
Wallace was sentenced to solitary confinement, where he remained for more than three decades, when he was moved to another prison, where he is still confined to his solitary cell for 23 hours a day. The physical evidence that was collected from the crime scene was never tested and other evidence was lost. Another inmate has since confessed to the murder.
A statement from Wallace’s legal team says:
“With today’s ruling, at long last, Herman Wallace has been afforded some measure of justice after a lifetime of injustice. We ask that the Department of Corrections honor Judge Jackson’s order and immediately release Herman Wallace so that he can spend his final days as a free man.”
“In addition, litigation challenging Mr. Wallace’s unconstitutional confinement in solitary confinement for four decades will continue in his name. It is Mr. Wallace’s hope that this litigation will help ensure that others, including his lifelong friend and fellow ‘Angola 3’ member, Albert Woodfox, do not continue to suffer such cruel and unusual confinement even after Mr. Wallace is gone.”
His lawyers are working to secure his release as soon as possible.