Moral Low Ground


Freed ‘Angola 3’ Prisoner Herman Wallace Dies 3 Days After Release from 41 Years in Solitary Confinement

Herman Wallace dies

A Louisiana prisoner whose conviction was overturned last week after he spent nearly 42 years locked up in solitary confinement has died.

Herman Wallace passed away Friday of liver cancer in New Orleans. He was 71 years old. He had been freed from Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel, Louisiana on Tuesday night after a federal judge ruled that he had not received a fair trial.

In 1971, Wallace, along with Albert Woodfox and Robert King– the ‘Angola 3’— were serving time for armed robbery at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola when they formed a chapter of the Black Panther Party in order to combat the rampant rape, sexual slavery, violence and appalling living conditions at the prison. The following year, prison guard Brent Miller was stabbed to death. Wallace and Woodfox were convicted of the killing, despite a lack of physical evidence linking them to the stabbing and despite the fact that the prosecution’s star witness against them was bribed by prison officials.

For the better part of the following four decades, the men were locked up in solitary confinement in separate 6’x9′ prison cells. Critics claim solitary confinement is torture; such imprisonment is even forbidden in wartime under the Geneva Conventions. US Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who was brutally tortured after being shot down and captured by enemy forces during the Vietnam War, said solitary “crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment.”

Wallace and his supporters asserted that he was only kept in solitary as punishment for his political and protest activities. But even from the lonely confines of solitary, Wallace kept on working to improve prison conditions.

“It was a determination he would not be broken by the loneliness of the cell,” George Kendall, an attorney for Wallace, told the New York Times.

King’s conviction was overturned and he was released in 2001 after 29 years in solitary confinement. Woodfox’s conviction was also overturned after 36 years after he showed that it had literally been bought by the state, but the state attorney general appealed to a notoriously conservative appellate court which upheld the conviction.

Wallace was literally on his death bed when he got the news that he would be released last week.

“One of the final things that Herman said to us was, ‘I am free, I am free,'” his lawyers said in a statement.

Albert Woodfox remains behind bars in Louisiana. He is still in solitary confinement– the longest such stretch in isolation in US prison history.

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