[Ppnews] Angola 3 Judge refuses to toss murder conviction

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 10 19:54:45 EDT 2007

Judge refuses to toss murder conviction

Angola corrections officer slain in 1972

Advocate staff writer

Published: Oct 10, 2007 - Page: 1B

In a brief, one-page ruling Tuesday, a Baton 
Rouge judge rejected a recommendation to throw 
out the murder conviction of an Angola inmate for 
the 1972 killing of a 23-year-old corrections officer.

State District Judge Mike Erwin handed down the 
ruling in the case of Herman Wallace, an Angola 
inmate who since the incident has spent three decades in solitary confinement.

Wallace’s attorney, Nick Trenticosta, said he was 
disappointed by Erwin’s ruling, but is sure 
Wallace will prevail when the case is reviewed by 
the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal.

“I’ve been handling prosecutorial misconduct 
cases for 20 years and I’ve never seen a case 
more clear and solid,” Trenticosta said. “It’s as clear as a bell.”

Trenticosta had pushed for the murder conviction 
to be overturned after learning that a key 
prosecution witness got cigarettes and a promise 
of help from prison officials. The promise came 
from then-Warden Murray Henderson, who pledged to 
help the inmate get an early pardon if he 
testified against Wallace, Trenticosta said.

The East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s 
Office had urged Erwin to let the conviction 
stand. Assistant District Attorney Dale Lee has 
claimed in the past that the information would 
not have changed the jury verdict.

Phone messages from The Advocate left at Lee’s 
office Tuesday afternoon were not returned by press time.

Wallace and Albert Woodfox ­ both serving time on 
armed-robbery convictions at the time of the 
incident ­ were convicted in the April 17, 1972, 
stabbing death of Brent Miller.

Miller, a newly-married corrections officer, was stabbed 32 times.

The key prosecution witness, Hezekiah Brown, 
testified he was in a dorm with Miller when 
Wallace, Woodfox and two other men ­ all wearing 
bandanas over their faces ­ attacked the guard without uttering a word.

One of the other men, Gilbert Montegut, was 
acquitted and the fourth man, Chester Jackson, 
pleaded guilty to manslaughter and testified for 
the prosecution. The two key prosecution 
witnesses, Brown and Jackson, have since died.

Wallace claims he learned in 1998 of the promise 
Henderson made to Brown. According to motions 
filed in the case, Henderson wrote letters on 
Brown’s behalf and Brown received a commutation in his sentence in 1986.

East Baton Rouge Parish Commissioner Rachel 
Morgan, who reviews prisoner legal requests, said 
in her ruling that had Wallace’s attorney known 
about the promise from Henderson, he could have 
used that information to discredit Brown.

“It could have seriously affected the jury’s 
determination of Brown’s credibility,” Morgan wrote.

Morgan’s ruling was handed down in November 2006 
and the case was sent to Erwin.

Erwin’s ruling Tuesday came on the day a small 
group of people gathered outside the Governmental 
Building to question why it was taking so long 
for Erwin to review the matter and issue a ruling.

One of the protesters, Robert King, said Tuesday 
afternoon he hoped for a different ruling; but, 
even an adverse ruling clears the logjam and allows the case to move forward.

“I think this is a blessing in disguise,” said 
King, formerly known by the last name Wilkerson. 
“As far as I’m concerned, the case has just been expedited.”

King described himself as the only free member of 
what has become known as the “Angola Three.” The 
other two members, Wallace and Woodfox, remain in 
solitary confinement, King said.

King, 64, said he spent 29 years of his 31 years 
in prison in solitary confinement after being 
convicted of killing a fellow inmate. That conviction was overturned in 2001.

King, Wallace, and Woodfox spent decades in 
solitary confinement after being labeled as black 
militants who posed a danger to the prison population.

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