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Inmate dying of cancer, one of 'Angola 3,' freed

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 2nd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Herman Wallace was one of the "Angola 3," three inmates convicted in the death of Angola prison guard Brent Miller in 1974. After spending 41 years in solitary confinement, Wallace is set to taste freedom. His victory is bittersweet: he's dying of cancer.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Wallace from New Orleans was already serving a 50-year armed robbery sentence when Miller was fatally stabbed in 1972. Wallace along with the two others convicted in Miller's murder were moved to isolation at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola.

Wallace was moved to "closed-cell restriction" at Hunt Correctional in St. Gabriel in 2009 when he was recently taken to the prison's hospital unit.

Wallace's incarceration had stirred world opinion. Amnesty International USA delivered a petition to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's office last year. The petition contained 65,000 signatures from people around the world who called the prisoner's solitary confinement "inhuman and degrading."

"Tragically, this step toward justice has come as Herman is dying from cancer with only days or hours left to live," the group's executive director, Steven W. Hawkins said. "No ruling can erase the cruel, inhuman and degrading prison conditions he endured for more than 41 years."

Wallace's attorneys say that he left a correctional center in St. Gabriel by ambulance and is expected to go to LSU Interim Hospital in New Orleans for treatment of advanced terminal liver cancer.

"Tonight, Herman Wallace has left the walls of Louisiana prisons and will be able to receive the medical care that his advanced liver cancer requires," his legal team in a statement said.

Jackson had earlier overturned Wallace's 1974 murder conviction in Miller's death.

"The record in this case makes clear that Mr. Wallace's grand jury was improperly chosen in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of 'the equal protection of the laws' ... and that the Louisiana courts, when presented with the opportunity to correct this error, failed to do so," Jackson wrote.

"Our Constitution requires this result even where, as here, it means overturning Mr. Wallace's conviction nearly forty years after it was entered."

One of Wallace's attorneys George Kendall told reporters that the decision gives his client "some measure of justice after a lifetime of injustice." His response was tempered by the grim outlook for Wallace's health.

"He's pleased," Kendall said of Wallace's reaction after hearing of Tuesday's ruling, "but he's quite ill." Kendall said he "ceased receiving treatment a couple of weeks ago."

Fellow Angola 3 member, Albert Woodfox remains incarcerated. The third member, Robert King, was released after 29 years in solitary confinement. Convicted of killing a fellow inmate in 1973, King was released in 2001 after his conviction was reversed and he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of conspiracy to commit murder.

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