U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson has ordered the immediate release of Herman Wallace, one of the “Angola 3” Black Panthers convicted of murdering a white prison guard in 1972. Wallace, along with Robert Hillary King and Albert Woodfox, were placed in solitary confinement at Louisiana State Penitentiary after they were accused of stabbing 23-year-old prison guard Brent Miller to death over 40 years ago. Despite the ruling, there was no physical evidence linking any of the three to the crime.
King’s conviction was overturned in 2001, after spending over 29 years in solitary confinement, and Woodfox’s conviction has been overturned three times but he remains in solitary confinement while the appeals process takes place.
According to Jackson’s ruling, Wallace will be released immediately. Wallace currently has fatal liver cancer, but neither his ailment nor the perceived racial injustice of the original trial was used as justification for Jackson’s ruling. Instead, Jackson cited the fact that women were excluded from Wallace’s grand jury in the trial that took place over 40 years ago.
“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 hte Louisiana courts, when presented with the opportunity to correct this error, failed to do so.... Our Constitution requires this result even where, as here, it means overturning Mr. Wallace’s conviction nearly forty years after it was entered,” an excerpt from Jackson’s lengthy ruling reads.
Attorneys representing the State of Louisiana have already expressed their opposition to Wallace’s release.