[Ppnews] Herman Wallace - Angola Three inmate fighting for release after cancer diagnosis
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Sep 25 11:19:16 EDT 2013
Angola Three inmate fighting for release after cancer diagnosis
Herman Wallace, who was held in solitary confinement for more than 40
years, was told he has only a few more weeks to live
September 25, 2013
Herman Wallace, a former member of the Black Panther movement who was
held in solitary confinement in Louisiana for more than 40 years
is fighting a desperate legal battle to be released from prison having
been diagnosed with liver cancer and given just a few more weeks to live.
Wallace, 71, has petitioned the federal courts in Louisiana
<http://www.theguardian.com/world/louisiana> pleading with them to set
him free so that he can spend his last days in hospice care. He is
currently in the hospital wing of Elayn Hunt correctional center in St
Gabriel, Louisiana, where his condition is reported to be weakening to
the extent that some days he is unable to talk to his lawyers.
So far his request to be released has fallen on deaf ears. A federal
magistrate judge in Louisiana last week recommended that despite his
medical condition, which doctors have concluded is beyond hope, he
should remain incarcerated and effectively die in prison.
His attorneys now have until 30 September to give their response to a
federal district judge. George Kendall, Wallace's lawyer, told the
Guardian that he remains optimistic: "We are hopeful that this
meritorious habeus petition will be reviewed without delay by a federal
judge," he said.
As a member of the so-called Angola 3, Wallace become a symbol of the
widespread use of solitary confinement within the American penal system.
Originally convicted of robbery, he formed a prison chapter of the Black
Panthers along with fellow inmate Albert Woodfox. The two men were
subsequently accused in 1972 of the murder of a prison guard, Brent
Miller, and have spent most of the time since then in solitary.
Both men have consistently denied any involvement in Miller's death,
pointing out the dearth of forensic evidence connecting them to the
murder and to the fact that fellow inmates who acted as key witnesses
for the prosecution were offered inducements to implicate them. Wallace
contends that his conviction, and subsequent prolonged solitary
confinement, were punishment for his political activities within the
Black Panther movement in which he campaigned against racial segregation
inside the prison as well as against rape and violence that were at the
time rampant within the system.
Though media access to Wallace in his hospital cell is heavily
restricted, the prisoner's personal reflections on his desperate
position can be gleaned from recent telephone conversations he has had
with the film-maker Angad Bhalla who made a documentary on Wallace's
life in solitary called Herman's House
<http://hermanshousethefilm.com/>. Bhalla has shared a recording of his
conversation with the Guardian.
In their chats, Wallace says "I'm going through hell." He cannot eat
normal prison food, and has to rely on other inmates to buy him a
special diet from the prison concession.
He believes his terminal illness is "giving people a wake up call as to
what's going on inside these prisons. Solitary confinement destroys
people, both physically and mentally. Some of them are strong, they
think they can do it, but while my mind was strong enough, my body fell
victim to it."
He goes on to say that the medical services in the prison are so
primitive that they failed to detect his liver tumor for six months. By
the time it was diagnosed in June he had lost 50 lbs. The tumor was so
large it was visibly protruding from his stomach, making him, he says,
look pregnant. It was also by that point at an advanced stage that can
no longer be treated with chemotherapy.
Wallace has two major legal actions pending. He is pressing a lawsuit
against the Louisiana department of corrections accusing it of breaking
the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the US constitution by
subjecting him to cruel and unusual punishment in the form of prolonged
solitary confinement. He is also pursuing a habeus petition that
contends he is an innocent man wrongly convicted of murder in a trial
that was prejudiced with an all-white and all-male jury.
However, the hearings are scheduled for next year and he is unlikely to
live until then.
The third member of the Angola 3, Robert King, who was tangentially
connected to the Miller prosecution, was released from prison in 2001
having spent 29 years in solitary confinement. Woodfox is still locked
up in isolation in a 9ft x 6ft cell in David Wade correctional center in
In his conversation with Bhalla, Wallace says that he is now suffering
growing pain from the tumor. Even so, he vows to keep protesting: "I
suck it up, because it's all about the cause," he says. "That's what
keeps me going: to keep on fighting."
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