VICTORY: Herman Wallace Released!

October 2, 2013

After decades of public activism and hard-fought legal battles, Herman Wallace has been released from prison. Federal District Court Judge Brian Jackson overturned the “Angola 3” member’s conviction yesterday morning and ordered the State to immediately release Herman from custody.

Judge Jackson issued an order granting Herman full habeas relief based on systematic exclusion of women from the jury in violation of the 14th Amendment. No application for bail is required and the State has 30 days to notify Herman if they plan to re-indict him.

The State of Louisiana scrambled to stay Judge Jackson’s ruling and keep Herman behind bars. Judge Jackson denied the stay, however, reportedly refusing to leave his quarters until Herman was released. Just before 9 p.m. on October 1, 2013, Herman was driven away from Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in an ambulance, a free man.

While now is a time to celebrate, it’s also a time to keep up the pressure. We cannot afford to be silent.
The State is likely to appeal the ruling as they have appealed on three separate occasions when the courts have ruled in favor of fellow “Angola 3” prisoner Albert Woodfox. Regardless, Judge Jackson’s decision will be remembered as an affirmation of the Angola 3’s hard-fought struggle for justice and freedom from solitary confinement.

The three members of the Angola 3 – Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox and Robert King – believe that they were held in solitary confinement for decades because of their work organizing fellow prisoners against cruelty and segregation in Angola prison. More than four decades later, their refusal to be silenced made today’s ruling possible.

The tireless campaigning from hundreds of thousands of their supporters, including Amnesty activists like you, also made this possible. The petitions you sign, letters you write, lawmakers you lobby, rallies you attend and tweets you send have an impact.

And while now is a time to celebrate, it’s also a time to keep up the pressure. We cannot afford to be silent.

Despite a judge’s decision and petition signatures from more than 100,000 activists around the world calling on Governor Bobby Jindal to release Herman Wallace, the state is likely to appeal the ruling. What’s more, if we are silent, it does not seem likely that the State of Louisiana will ever release Albert Woodfox from solitary confinement.

Like Herman, Albert Woodfox was convicted of the 1972 murder of prison guard Brent Miller. Robert King was investigated in connection with Miller’s murder, but convicted instead of killing another prisoner. He was released when his conviction was overturned in 2001, after 29 years in solitary. Albert is the last remaining member of the Angola 3 held in solitary confinement.

Amnesty International has repeatedly expressed concern about legal aspects of this case: 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 – much of which 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. Both men have robustly denied any involvement in the murder over the years.

Herman and Albert were held in solitary confinement for over 40 years. The extremely harsh conditions they endured, including being confined to a small cell for 23 hours a day, inadequate access to exercise, social interaction and no access to work, education, or rehabilitation had physical and psychological consequences. Amnesty International repeatedly called on the authorities to remove Herman and Albert from conditions which can only be described as cruel, inhuman and degrading.

We are grateful for the news about Herman Wallace, but will remain tireless in our continued calls to end prolonged solitary confinement.