Ex-Black Panther Herman Wallace freed after 40 years in solitary

Cancer-ridden former Black Panther released as judge reverses murder conviction

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 October, 2013, 5:09am


A terminally ill former member of the Black Panther militant movement, who spent 40 years in solitary confinement for murder, has been set free after a judge reversed his controversial 1974 conviction for murder.

Judge Brian Jackson on Tuesday "ordered that the state immediately release Mr [Herman] Wallace from custody".

He later left the Louisiana jail in an ambulance and now "will be able to receive the medical care that his advanced liver cancer requires," his lawyers said.

Wallace, 72, who is dying from liver cancer, is one of the "Angola three," named after a notorious prison where they were held. The three embraced the Black Panther movement - a black, revolutionary socialist organisation - while already in prison for lesser crimes.

Wallace, who was behind bars for armed robbery, and fellow Panther Albert Woodfox, were sentenced to life after being convicted of stabbing a white prison guard to death in 1972.

A third, Robert King, was never charged but blamed for the murder nonetheless and, like Wallace and Woodfox, placed in solitary confinement. He was released after 29 years.

Wallace's defence counsel said the charges against him rested on the "incoherent" testimony of four prisoners who later retracted their statements. No fingerprints taken from the scene matched those of the men convicted of the crime, and witnesses said they were working in another part of the prison.

Amnesty International cheered the decision but lamented it came only as he "is dying from cancer with only days or hours left to live".