Herman Wallace, who served 41 years in solitary confinement as one of the Angola 3, died three days after being released last week. Herman was released because a judge demanded a retrial, as his original trial over the killing of a prison guard, had been unconstitutional.
Herman, then 71, was suffering from terminal liver cancer and had stopped taking medication. The Angola 3—Herman, Robert King and Albert Woodfox—were members of the Black Panther Party in the US. They organised against the brutal, racist regime in Louisiana State Penitentiary.
They got prisoners to demand an end to segregation and organised strikes and sit-ins for better conditions. They campaigned to end systematic rape and violence in jail. The prison is popularly known as Angola because it is on the site of a former slave plantation.
The three were framed over two murders. This year Amnesty International said, “No physical evidence links them to the crime—potentially exculpatory DNA evidence has been lost and the testimony of the main eyewitness has been discredited.
“Citing racial discrimination, misconduct by the prosecution, and inadequate defense, state and federal judges overturned Woodfox’s conviction three times.”
Despite this the Louisiana authorities refused to release them. Robert King proved his innocence after 29 years in solitary. Since his release he has campaigned for his comrades to be freed. Albert Woodfox is still in a different prison.
More than 81,000 prisoners are held in solitary confinement in the US, though none for as long as the Angola 3.