[Ppnews] Court recommends reversing Angola 3 Herman Wallace's conviction

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Nov 10 08:23:13 EST 2006


http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,,-6204801,00.html

A state court official has recommended reversing 
the murder conviction of a former Black Panther 
who has been held in solitary confinement at 
Louisiana's state penitentiary since the early 1970s.

Ex-Black Panther's conviction questioned

By DOUG SIMPSON

A state court official has recommended reversing 
the murder conviction of a former Black Panther 
who has been held in solitary confinement at 
Louisiana's state penitentiary since the early 1970s.

Inmate rights activists have fought for years for 
a new trial for Herman Wallace, who was 
originally sent to the state prison at Angola 
after an armed robbery conviction, then found 
guilty of stabbing to death a guard in 1972.

Rachel Morgan, the court commissioner in the 
case, recommended this week to reverse the 
conviction. Wallace's attorney, Nick Trenticosta, 
received the recommendation Thursday. Morgan's 
recommendation could be rejected by the trial 
judge, but it was not clear when state District 
Judge Michael Irwin would make a decision.

Wallace, Albert Woodfox and Robert Wilkerson are 
known as the "Angola Three," considered by 
prisoners' rights groups to be wrongly held in 
solitary confinement because of their political 
activity with the now-defunct Black Panthers.

Wilkerson was released in 2001 after a judge 
overturned his conviction for killing another 
inmate. Prison officials have said Wallace and 
Woodfox are in solitary because they would be 
endangered if returned to the general prison population.

Trenticosta argued in a September hearing that 
his client's conviction was tainted because 
prison officials had bribed the star witness into testifying against Wallace.

Prosecutors argued there was no proof of bribery. 
Dale Lee, the assistant district attorney who 
opposed reversal of the conviction, did not 
return a call seeking comment Thursday.

A former guard said that Hezekiah Brown, a fellow 
inmate, received favorable treatment after 
testifying; he began receiving a weekly carton of 
cigarettes and was transferred from a main prison 
building to a house with his own room and television set.

Trenticosta said Brown also won a promise from C. 
Murray Henderson, warden at the time, that he 
would help the inmate win release from prison. 
Trenticosta argued that the warden's promise, 
plus the cigarettes and cushy new housing, 
amounted to a payoff in exchange for testimony 
implicating Wallace in the killing.

Trenticosta said the promise and the favorable 
treatment had been withheld from Wallace's 
defense lawyer, who should have had the 
opportunity to tell jurors — information that 
could have led them to believe Brown was lying.

In her recommendation, Morgan agreed, writing 
that she believed "Warden Henderson did promise 
to help Brown with a pardon before Brown 
testified and that he did authorize other favors within the prison."

Those favors, she said, "should have been 
disclosed to the defense before trial, as they 
weighed on the credibility of Hezekiah Brown."

In the hearing, Lee argued that prison 
authorities were correct to segregate Brown in 
new housing quarters after his testimony, because 
he would have faced retribution from other 
inmates angry at him for helping prison authorities.

Lee also argued that there was no proof that 
Henderson promised to help Brown with his pardon, 
though Trenticosta produced testimony and 
correspondence in which Henderson appeared to acknowledge making such promises.

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