[Ppnews] Ex-Black Panther argues for new trial

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Sep 20 14:37:32 EDT 2006

Sept. 19, 2006, 7:56PM

Ex-Black Panther argues for new trial

By DOUG SIMPSON Associated Press Writer
© 2006 The Associated Press

ANGOLA, La. ­ A former Black Panther convicted of 
killing a Louisiana prison guard in the 1970s 
deserves a new murder trial because prosecutors 
withheld key evidence that could have won him an 
acquittal, his lawyer argued in a prison courtroom on Tuesday.
Herman Wallace, one of a trio of prisoners known 
as the "Angola Three," has spent most of the past 
three decades in solitary confinement at the 
state's top-security prison after his conviction 
in the stabbing death of guard Brent Miller.

His lawyer argued that the warden had essentially 
bribed a witness into identifying Wallace as one 
of the killers _ and that prosecutors knowingly 
kept the deal secret from jurors.

"Jurors would have dismissed (the witness') 
testimony as hogwash" if they had known, lawyer Nick Trentecosta said.

Prosecutors, fighting Wallace's efforts at a new 
trial, said no proof exists of that deal _ an 
alleged promise from the warden to help the 
witness get a pardon and eventual release from 
prison. The warden and the witness are dead.

"I haven't seen anything to say that there was a 
promise given," prosecutor Dale Lee said. 
"There's nobody here to disprove what actually 
happened in 1972 _ they're all dead."

Trentecosta said Hezekiah Brown, the witness who 
testified against Wallace, received a weekly 
carton of cigarettes as a payoff for his 
testimony. The cigarettes amounted to valuable 
currency _ "a prison pension" _ that Brown could 
spend on gambling, alcohol, drugs or sex, 
Trentecosta said. After the trial, he was 
transferred to a private house with his own room 
and television set, a former guard, Bobby Ovileaux, testified.

Lee said the prison was right to segregate Brown 
from the general prison population because he 
would be in danger of being attacked or killed by 
other inmates who were angry that he had testified against a fellow prisoner.

Trentecosta also produced several documents from 
then-Warden C. Murray Henderson in which 
Henderson referred to commitments and promises he 
had made to help Brown get a pardon.

Court commissioner Rachel Morgan said she will 
issue a recommendation to the trial judge, 
probably within a month, on whether Wallace 
should get a new trial. District Judge Michael 
Irwin could accept or reject her recommendation, 
or order another evidentiary hearing in his courtroom, she said.

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.

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