[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 
Homer, Louisiana.

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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863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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