(NEW YORK) - Amnesty International USA issued the following comments today from Steven W. Hawkins, executive director, in response to news that the state of Louisiana has released Herman Wallace, among the Angola 3 prisoners, from prison:
"This is a bittersweet moment for us as activists. All of us feel the strength of our movement today – the years we spent fighting with others for the Angola 3 and the actions of more than 100,000 people around the world has helped bring about some measure of justice for Herman Wallace. And yet, we know he suffered intolerably for more than 41 years, confined alone for 23 hours a day. Nothing can erase those cruel years. But we must be grateful that Herman can receive the loving care in his final days that he was denied by the state of Louisiana for decades. We now ask again that Louisiana Governor Jindal remove Herman's co-defendant Albert Woodfox from the same inhumane solitary confinement he has endured for more than four decades."
Wallace and Woodfox were convicted for the murder of prison guard Brent Miller. Amnesty International has repeatedly expressed concern that many legal aspects of this case are troubling: no physical evidence links Woodfox and Wallace to the murder, potentially exculpatory DNA evidence was lost by the state, and their conviction was based on questionable testimony - some of which was subsequently retracted by witnesses. In recent years, evidence has emerged that the main eyewitness was bribed by prison officials into giving statements against the men. Throughout their incarceration, Woodfox and Wallace were denied any meaningful review of the reasons for being kept in isolation. They believed that they were placed in solitary to punish them for being members of the Black Panther Party in Angola Prison and organizing prisoners to demand better conditions and fairer treatment. Amnesty International has repeatedly campaigned to have them removed from prolonged isolation, which constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.
According to his lawyers, Herman received substandard medical care both before and after his diagnosis, including delaying potential life-extending chemotherapy treatment. In 2007 a federal judge ruled that the conditions under which both Woodfox and Wallace were being held constituted a deprivation of a basic human need and that prison officials should have been aware that such treatment could be seriously harmful to the physical and mental health of prisoners. Today, Woodfox remains in solitary confinement, despite the fact that his conviction has been overturned three times.
Read Amnesty International's June 2011 report on the case, "100 Years in Solitary Confinement: the Angola 3 and Their Fight for Justice."
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.