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Angola 3 Member Herman Wallace Granted Release

Almost 40 years after his initial conviction, a member of the infamous Angola 3 was granted an immediate release from prison on Tuesday. U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson ordered the release and overturned the murder conviction of Herman Wallace because women were "systematically excluded" from the jury that convicted him in 1974, according to a ruling filed Tuesday.


Wallace, a former black panther who was one of several inmates organizing for better conditions at Angola prison, was convicted in the 1972 murder of a correctional officer at the state penitentiary. His conviction, along with the other Angola 3 members Albert Woodfox and Robert Hillary King, has long been challenged by activists who say the case against the three lacked evidence. King was released after 29 years, while Wallace and Woodfox remained in solitary confinement until being relocated in 2008.


Wallace is 71 years old, and was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer in June, according to Amnesty International, advocates for the Angola 3.


"We welcome the court's ruling overturning Herman Wallace's original murder conviction and ordering his immediate release from state custody," said Amnesty International director Steven Hawkins. "Tragically, this step toward justice has come as Herman is dying from cancer with only days or hours left to live."


Judge Jackson issued Tuesday's order on a writ of habeas courpus that was filed in 2009, court records indicate. In the ruling, the judge pointed to evidence that showed a woman had never served on an West Feliciana Parish jury at the time of Wallace's conviction. 


"The record in this case makes clear that Mr. Wallace's grand jury was improperly chosen in violation of the Fourteenth Amendmen's guarantee of 'the equal protection of the laws,'" Jackson writes.


Immediately after the ruling, the state filed notice in court that they will appeal the release to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.


-Stephen Babcock

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