Herman Wallace, one of the “Angola 3” inmates placed in solitary confinement in the Louisiana State Penitentiary after the 1972 murder of prison guard Brent Miller, was released earlier this week after a judge ruled that his trial, which took place more than 40 years ago, was unconstitutional because women were not included on the grand jury.
Just a few days after his release, Wallace was re-indicted by a county prosecutor. Later that night, Wallace died in his sleep.
Wallace had been suffering from a fatal liver condition, and it was speculated that he did not have long to live upon his release.
The man’s 42-year stint in solitary confinement became a racial issue throughout the state, as Wallace and the other two men indicted, Robert Hillary King and Albert Woodfox, were arrested without any evidence against them. King was eventually released, and Woodfox is undergoing the process of having his sentence reversed, as he faces consistent appeals from the state.
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District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla, the man who filed the charges against Wallace this week, did not appear sympathetic toward Wallace. “We indicted [Wallace] yesterday and filed it,” D’Aquilla told Think Progress. “We were going to have a warrant issued to get him picked up but somebody told me he went ahead and died.”
U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson had ordered the immediate release of Wallace after issuing his ruling earlier this week. Due to Wallace’s condition, he was taken to a hospice center.
D’Aquilla maintained that Wallace was unfairly removed from jail, despite the issues surrounding his initial arrest and his condition. “I actually determined that he was sentenced to life and he didn’t fulfill his sentence,” D’Aquilla said. “It’s not fair to have him not in jail. His medical condition or something like that didn’t nullify the actions that he did.”
Jackson actually did not cite Wallace’s condition, or even his innocence in the murder, for the man’s release. He claimed, rather, that the initial conviction was unconstitutional due to the lack of women on the grand jury. Still, many view Jackson’s ruling as a sympathetic act of justice for a man wrongly imprisoned for so many years. If Wallace is indeed innocent, his story is a tragic one that came with at least some, but not enough, taste of redemption and freedom towards the end.