Did the Wrong Man Spend 40 Years in Solitary Confinement?

It is now only a matter of weeks, or days perhaps, before Herman Wallace dies of the liver cancer that is ravaging his body. He will likely die in prison, at age 72, without proper medical treatment, after spending nearly four decades in a 6’ by 9’ cell. He was placed in solitary confinement after being convicted in January 1974 of killing a prison guard at Louisiana’s notorious Angola prison. Wallace is black. The guard was white, and so was each member of the southern jury that convicted him.

The case against Wallace was pitifully weak when it was presented to that jury; some of the constitutional infirmities at trial were almost farcical. But over the years the courts of that state, along with Congress and the federal courts, have constructed a mighty wall protecting that jury’s verdict. Layer upon layer of procedural protections has been built around it so that today, as Wallace nears death, it is easy to see the vast gulf that exists here between law and justice.

And that, ironically, may be the most important legacy Wallace leaves from his miserable time on this earth. A member of the famed “Angola 3,” Wallace in life has been a symbol of many different things to many different people. He has generated more than his share both of pity and scorn. In death, however, he will become a symbol of a justice system that too often prizes finality over accuracy, but without the candor or courage to actually say so. The law says that Herman Wallace got a fair trial. But we all can judge for ourselves what that really meant to a black inmate in Louisiana in 1974.

Read more. [Image: Bogdan Cristel/Reuters]

New Orleans, Louisiana: Rally for justice for political prisoner Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3, January 8, 2014.

“Supporters of the Angola 3 gathered at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans Tuesday to support Albert Woodfox. A federal judge ruled in favor of Albert, due to racism in the selection of the jury foreperson, but the state of Louisiana appealed. Over 100 people heard the oral arguments and anxiously await a ruling. How dare the attorney for Louisiana say that any racial discrimination was not intentional even if it could be proved? Racism in the South is so interwoven into the criminal justice system, that his statement was a cruel joke.


Photo and report by Gloria Rubac

FAREWELL HERMAN by Albert Woodfox  Well, the old man has decided to leave us! I am sure it was a very hard choice for him, who will I serve, the ancestors who have called me home, or humanity whom I love so much? Old man, was my term of endearment - it had to do with the age of everything - to do with his heart and soul. Herman “Hooks” Wallace was not a perfect human being, and like all men, he had faults and weaknesses, but he also had character! He could make me so mad, that I wanted to rip his head off! Then he would melt my heart with a word, or act of kindness to another human being. On October 1st sitting in a hospital room, with the other part of my heart (Robert H. King), I tried to will a miracle and it was granted, not the miracle of life that I wanted but the miracle of freedom!  After 42 years of tireless struggle against evil, he was a free man! I wanted so badly to witness his walk to freedom, but it was not to be, I had to leave, but after losing my mother, sister and brother in law to cancer, I was at peace! I had a chance to say goodbye to my comrade in the struggle, my mentor in life, my fellow panther and most of all, my friend. Herman taught me that a man can stumble, even fall, as long as he gets up. That it’s OK to be afraid, but hold onto your courage. To lose battle, is not the loss of a war! Herman Wallace’s greatest pride was joining the Black Panther Party for self defense! He believed in duty, honor and dedication. He never broke the faith of the party, his comrades or the people. As I bent to kiss his forehead, my heart said goodbye - I love you forever - my soul said - separated but never apart - never touching, but always connected. He was the best of us, as long as we remember him, he lives on. All Power to the People!Albert “Shaka Cinque” Woodfox Albert Woodfox #72148, David Wade Correctional Center, N1 A3, 670 Bell Hill Road, Homer, LA  71040
Herman Wallace Given Just Days to Live After 42 Years in Solitary

Angola prisoner Herman Wallace is dying of liver cancer after 42 years in solitary confinement. A member of the so-called Angola 3, Wallace and two others were in jail for armed robbery, then accused in 1972 of murdering a prison guard at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, known as Angola prison. The men say they were framed because of their political activism as members one of the first prison chapters of the Black Panther Party. Wallace’s supporters say he has just days to live, but his requests for compassionate release has so far gone unanswered. We speak with Jackie Sumell, a New Orleans-based artist behind “Herman’s House,” a collaboration with Wallace, which is the subject of a new documentary by the same name. “I’m not sure in the state of Louisiana if compassion is part of the vocabulary of those who are in power. I always felt that compassionate release, or asking for compassionate release, was important in terms of a multipronged effort to have Herman released,” Sumell says. “But there’s been 42 years of the state continuing to deny Herman’s due process. It’s incredible. He’s the longest known serving in solitary confinement in the United States.” We are also joined by Malik Rahim, one of the founders of the Louisiana chapter of the Black Panther Party and a co-founder of the Common Ground Collective, which helped bring thousands of people from all over the world to help rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.



Albert Woodfox to be released

Finally Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3 is being released after 40 years in solitary confinement, essentially for being a Black Panther (he was framed for the murder of a prison guard along with two comrades, Herman Wallace and Robert King). It’s a bittersweet thing, considering that he’s now 68. It’s better than nothing, of course. 

But the whole debacle is so astonishing and Kafkaesque. Back in 2013, I believe it was, I attended Herman Wallace’s funeral, which was so fucking sad. He was the other comrade who was still locked up, Robert King having been released some years before. The circumstances of his death were just mind-blowing. He was clearly about to die, and then he got out. Then they said, no, he had to come back, even though he was about to die. Can you imagine? As it happens, he died before he was taken back into that hell hole.

It was an open-casket service at the Treme Center, next to Louis Armstrong Park. I remember looking at his face. It’s always strange to look at someone who has been embalmed and is in a casket. But this time it was even weirder for me, because I thought about all that horror. I thought about all those years…I thought about how much I hate this system, with every fiber of my being. I love Louisiana - as a culture. I love the poor and oppressed people of this continent. But I hate the fucking United States, full stop. No reservations about that to placate liberal sensibilities. What we know as the United States of America, as such, has to be completely dismantled.