Herman Wallace’s Conviction Overturned and Immediate Release Ordered!

From: Angola3News

-Read today’s court ruling here

(Statement written by the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3)

Miraculous news this morning! Judge Brian A. Jackson, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, has overturned Herman’s conviction, granting him full habeas relief based on the systematic exclusion of women from the jury in violation of the 14th Amendment.

Even more astonishingly, the Judge clearly orders that “the State immediately release Mr. Wallace from custody.”  No application for bail is required, and the State is given 30 days to notify Herman if they plan to re-indict him.

We pray that Herman can still hear this all-important decision that he’s waited these four decades for.  Although the State will no doubt contest this decision, this is what Herman has been struggling for – and at the end of his life, he’s won!

Albert Woodfox and Robert King are meeting at the prison this morning to say their farewells and and will instead have this amazing news to share with Herman and maybe even be able to take him home. To everyone that’s pushed for this victory – thank you – it means the world to Herman.

–Today’s ruling comes on the heels of recent media coverage, including:  Democracy Now (reprinted by Havana Times), The Atlantic, and the SF Bay View.

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Fighting Spirit: A Message from Herman Wallace

Sept. 10th 2013

On Saturday. August 31st, I was transferred to LSU Hospital for evaluation. I was informed that the chemo treatments had failed and were making matters worse and so all treatment came to an end. The oncologists advised that nothing can be done for me medically within the standard care that they are authorized to provide. They recommended that I be admitted to hospice care to make my remaining days as comfortable as possible. I have been given 2 months to live.

I want the world to know that I am an innocent man and that Albert Woodfox is innocent as well. We are just two of thousands of wrongfully convicted prisoners held captive in the American Gulag. We mourn for the family of Brent Miller and the many other victims of murder who will never be able to find closure for the loss of their loved ones due to the unjust criminal justice system in this country. We mourn for the loss of the families of those unjustly accused who suffer the loss of their loved ones as well.

Only a handful of prisoners globally have withstood the duration of years of harsh and solitary confinement that Albert and myself have.  The State may have stolen my life, but my spirit will continue to struggle along with Albert and the many comrades that have joined us along the way here in the belly of the beast.
In 1970 I took an oath to dedicate my life as a servant of the people, and although I’m down on my back, I remain at your service. I want to thank all of you, my devoted supporters, for being with me to the end.

Herman Wallace of Angola 3 ill: Plz send messages of Support to Herman and Albert!

Photo of Herman taken in April 2013

Today, our allies at Amnesty International and Solitary Watch released articles and statements reporting on Herman’s condition and calling for increased public support at this critical time.

As Solitary Watch writes, two months ago Herman “complained of feeling ill. Prison doctors diagnosed his condition as a stomach fungus and put him on antibiotics. By last week, he had lost 45 pounds, and was sent to a local hospital, where he received the news that he has liver cancer. He was returned to prison after a few days.”

“A team of lawyers, an outside doctor who has taken care of Wallace for years, and a psychologist briefly visited Wallace last week in a prison hospital room. Wallace was not manacled or shackled. The door was locked. There is no television and little contact with the outside world. Telephone privileges which were made available in the beginning have been revoked by the prison. According to one source, a warden ordered visitors out after ten minutes,” reports Solitary Watch, quoting lawyer Nick Trenticosta, who reflected that this “level of inhumanity I am not used to.”

It is with great sadness that we write to share the news of Herman Wallace’s recent liver cancer diagnosis.
In a statement of support released on Monday, Jasmine Heiss, Amnesty International USA’s Individuals & Communities at Risk Campaigner said: “Herman’s condition is grave and we are still waiting for details of his prognosis. Once we know more, we will ask you to make your voices heard to the Louisiana authorities so that our calls for justice ring from the state’s northern border to the very end of the Mississippi river.”

Until then, Amnesty is urging supporters to write letters to Herman and Albert “reminding Herman and Albert that they are not alone – that there are hundreds of thousands of people standing with them, even as the state tries to keep them in total isolation. You can download cards to send to Herman and Albert here. You should add a personal message and, if possible, also send pictures of your hometown, nature or animals to lift the two men’s spirits. Albert and Herman are held in two different prisons, so please be sure to write to both of them separately – Albert is struggling with the news of his friend’s illness, so he needs your words of support just as much as Herman.”

The importance of writing both Herman and Albert cannot be overstated. The Solitary Watch article reports on Albert’s visit last weekend with his brother Michael Mable, where Albert was very distraught over news of Herman’s health. Exemplifying the punitive conditions that Albert continues to endure, “Mable was only able to see Woodfox through a glass partition, and Woodfox sat with his hands manacled and feet shackled while a captain and a lieutenant stood behind him, Mable said. Woodfox was strip searched, even though the interview was just a short ways from his cell. He is allowed one visit a month.”

Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, 2002

In another statement of support released on Monday, Amnesty International UK’s Urgent Action

Further calling for letters to be sent to Herman and Albert, Amnesty UK declares: “One of Amnesty’s roles is to shine a light on injustice wherever it takes place. So I’m asking you to please shine the brightest possible light upon Louisiana, and to write postcards (preferably with a picture of your home town) to Herman and Albert. Please let them know that you are standing beside them at this difficult time. These letters will not only give much-needed support to Herman and Albert, but it will also show the Louisiana authorities that the world is watching them.”

We promise to keep you updated in the coming days as we learn more about Herman’s health and further develop our approach for best supporting both Herman and Albert. For now, please heed Amnesty International’s call to action and write to Herman and Albert today.
Address your cards to:

Herman Wallace
#76759 SNU/CCR
EHCC PO Box 174
St Gabriel, LA 70776
USA

Albert Woodfox
#72148
David Wade Correctional Center, N1A3
670 Bell Hill Rd.
Homer, LA 71040

Network wrote: “This is heart-breaking news and everyone associated with the campaign remains shocked. But, taking our lead from the Angola 3, we are determined to fight, and we desperately need you to stand beside Herman, Albert and Robert at this difficult time. We need to put our collective voices together, louder than ever, and link arms with these men across the ocean.”

Death row inmates sue Angola Prison over ‘extreme’ temperatures

From: The Times-Picayune,
By: Lauren McGaughy, June 11, 2013

Three inmates on death row at the Louisiana State Penitentiary have filed suit in Baton Rouge federal court against jail officials for what they call “appalling and extreme conditions … as a result of extreme heat” in the facilities. The lawsuit requests that corrections officials work with the warden and jail staff to mitigate “extreme and unsafe” temperatures and humidity in the Death Row facility at the penitentiary, which is more commonly known as Angola Prison.

The lawsuit, filed Monday on behalf of the inmates by the Promise of Justice Initiative, says the conditions prisoners suffer each summer violate the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the Eight Amendment.

The defendants are Department of Public Safety and Corrections and specifically its Secretary James LeBlanc, Angola Prison Warden Burl Cain and Death Row Warden Angela Norwood. The plaintiffs are Death Row inmates Elzie Ball, Nathaniel Code and James Magee.

According to the lawsuit documents, the heat index — or how hot “it feels” — on Death Row reached 195 degrees Fahrenheit on more than one occasion in the summer of 2011. Last summer, the index was above 126 degrees on 85 days between May and August, the suit said.

The Advocacy Center, a non-profit organization offering free legal advice, obtained the heat index information through a public records request after being alerted to the temperature concerns by inmates about two years ago. Additional information was added by inmate and visitor anecdotes.

The lawsuit states Angola’s new Death Row facility was constructed in 2008 and outfitted with duct work throughout to provide climate control. However, while visitation rooms, guard towers and offices are air-conditioned, the “tiers” occupied by inmates are only outfitted with fans that “merely blow hot air into Plaintiffs’ cells,” the suit said.

“During the summer, the bars of the cells are hot to the touch and the cinder block walls release additional heat,” according to the suit. Inmates choose to sleep on the concrete “because the floor is slightly cooler than their beds.”

Additionally, clean drinking water is “contaminated with debris” and water from the showers “is scalding hot,” sometimes exceeding 115 degrees during the summer months, the suit said.

All three inmates suffer from hypertension. Ball, 60, is a diabetic; Code, 57 has hepatitis; and Magee, 35, is treated medically for depression. Because of these ailments, all three are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the suit said.

Read the rest here.

41 Years Locked Up Unjustly and in Solitary Confinement

From: Angola 3 News:

Today, April 17, 2013, marks 41 years that Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace have been unjustly incarcerated in solitary confinement in Louisiana. This is 41 years of living in concrete and metal cages of 6 x 9 feet; 41 years of being separated from their families and loved ones; 41 years of being wrongly accused of a murder they did not commit.

Over 41 years ago, prison officials at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (aka ‘Angola’), an 18,000-acre former slave plantation, were first confronted by the Angola 3’s challenge to the obscene human rights atrocities that were a daily reality for prisoners there. They responded to these efforts by fabricating a case against Albert and Herman for the tragic murder of prison guard Brent Miller in 1972. Shortly thereafter, when Robert King entered Angola, he was ensnared in the aftermath of that murder and joined Herman and Albert in solitary.

Although the flame for justice for the Angola 3 continues to burn bright these many decades later, words cannot express the profound rage and frustration we feel commemorating one more year of Herman and Albert’s confinement. But we will not lose hope or forget how much we have already accomplished and just how close we are to winning both Herman and Albert’s release. Solitary confinement’s daily assault on Herman and Albert’s mind, body and spirit has not been able to deter them. Inspired by their heroic resilience on the frontlines of the struggle, we too, will never give up our fight for their release.

Continuing this fight for Albert, Herman and all prisoners, today we are launching an action to kick-start the call for a State Congressional Hearing to end the use of prolonged solitary confinement in Louisiana. Our friends at The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) have enabled this through their campaign calling “upon state legislators and departments of corrections to begin now to take steps to end prolonged solitary confinement” in all 50 states and the federal prison system.

We need only 500 people within a particular state to sign the statement and NRCAT will send these endorsements to that state’s governor, top corrections officials, and every member of that state’s legislature. When we hit 1,000 signatures they will do the same again. PLEASE spread the word to help us achieve our petition goal for Louisiana and in states across the country. Please sign this now.

The campaign for the Angola 3 grows in strength around the world, from local organizations to international NGO’s like Amnesty International (read their new statement marking 41 years) joining the call for justice. While Herman and Albert continue to live the hell that is solitary confinement, this cruel and unusual punishment is in the news more than ever before – with calls for its abolition from state congresses and increasing evidence of its violations to human rights.

Albert, Herman and Robert do not want anyone else to suffer the hellish torture they still endure today. Thank you all for your continued support. Without you the flame of justice would not burn so strongly.  Please mark this day by taking action to end the use of prolonged solitary confinement in Louisiana and the USA.

Events Mark 41 Years

This week you can also join us at one of the many events commemorating 41 years. 

The new Canadian film Hard Time is screening this week in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.



41-hour vigil on April 19-21, in New Orleans is being organized by the Angola 3 Movement, withHard Time shown alongside more films and presentations.


In New York City, Herman’s House, the film, will premiere on April 19.


In Europe, Amnesty France is hosting a screening of In the Land of the Free in Paris on April 30.


 A Defined Voice 
–By Herman Wallace, 2006

They removed my whisper from general population

To maximum security I gained a voice

They removed my voice from maximum security

To administrative segregation

My voice gave hope

They removed my voice from administrative segregation

To solitary confinement

My voice became vibration for unity

They removed my voice from solitary confinement

To the Supermax of Camp J

And now they wish to destroy me

The louder my voice the deeper they bury me

I SAID, THE LOUDER MY VOICE THE DEEPER THEY BURY ME!

Free all political prisoners, prisoners of war, prisoner of consciousness.

–Below are two new photos of Herman Wallace, taken this month:


Prison rape: Sexual torture

Taken over from: SF Bay View, April 1st 2013
by Kenny Zulu Whitmore

Revolutionary greetings, my people.
Prison is a lonely, dark, cruel reality where you immediately become trapped in a time warp on one of the many modern day plantations that have sprung up like trees across America.

Rape in prison is a part of the fabric as is rotten, evil, racist corrections officers, or COs. One of America’s taboos right up with “There are no political prisoners or torture in America’s prisons.” Rape and the threat of rape by these COs is an act of sexual torture that leaves more mental scars than physical, and the victim of this violent act is no less a victim than if the act was committed out in society.

Kenny Zulu Whitmore afro back when
Kenny Zulu Whitmore back in the day

In 2008, shortly after Hurricane Gustav ripped through several of Louisiana’s 64 parishes, a brutal sexual assault was being carried out by a sadistic CO. I will conduct a sit-down with the victim of that violent act.

Twice a victim

Zulu: Shannon, how are you today, man, and what is your whole name?

S.A.: Shannon Alexander. I wish for better days, Zulu. Shannon Alexander, 298078.

Zulu: Shannon, you were a victim of a violent sexual assault by a CO here back in 2008. You want to tell me about that?

S.A.: This happened while I was housed at Camp-C Tiger 1R booth tier on the 10th day of September 2008 by Master Sgt. DeWayne McMills, a white male 42 years old. He’s about 6 feet tall, 200-230 pounds, with 24 years in as a guard here at Angola.

Zulu: Shannon, how tall are you and how much do you weigh? And describe what is a booth tier.

S.A.: I am 5 feet 2 inches and 135 pounds. A booth tier is a tier of 13 cells, as they have in several camps. The booth has bars like a regular cell in front, but with 4 feet by 4 feet of space with a steel door the guards can close when they are gassing you or beating you.

Zulu: That big door does nothing for anyone on the tier when the CO’s spray or beat someone, because everyone feels the effect of the gas and hears the guy being beat with those PR-24s (sticks) and kicked with those heavy boots. I have been on one such tier when an attack took place.
S.A.: Yes, you are right, too.

Zulu: What went down?

S.A.: I was laying in my bunk. When Master Sgt. DeWayne McMills entered my booth and pulled the steel door, and said, “Nigger, get your ass up, strip, take off the jumpsuit, and come to the bars. Turn around, bend over and spread your Black ass open.” I told the master sergeant not to use those racist terms with me and that I was not going to bend over and do nothing because he knows that ain’t the way it is done.

Zulu: I thought it was “squat and cough”?

S.A.: It is; that’s the way it’s supposed to go. But when I refused, Master Sgt. McMills went off calling me every racist name in the book, throwing the restraints against the walls: “You fucking Nigger, you are dead.” “You are one hung Nigger.”

Zulu: Wait a minute. He threatened to hang you?

S.A.: Yes, he did, and I know they will do just that. Master Sgt. McMills says “This is your third verbal order. Come to the bars and be restrained, Alexander.” Not to relive that whole experience, (but) I went up to the bars to be restrained. He put the cuff of the waist belt on and said, “Turn around,” so he could grab the restraints belt and violently pulled me up against the bars and fastened the belt around the bars and began slapping me upside the head through the bars and started feeling on my ass, saying all kinds of crazy shit.

That they was going to rape me, fuck me in the ass. There was nothing I could do. I feared for my life and I started to beg him not to do that. He – Master Sgt. McMills – went off again with the racist stuff about me. Black people. I still had the jumpsuit up. He said, “I want you to suck my dick through the bars.” And if I, Shannon Alexander, did not perform this act upon him, he would spit upon himself and hit his beeper and tell the warden I spit on him and took the restraints – to have me gassed and beaten. Master Sgt. McMills took the restraint belt aloose from the bars and took the cuffs off. “Strip, Nigger, and get on your knees.”

Zulu: What did you do?

S.A.: Being in fear of my life and what will happen when he presses his beeper, I had to pretend to go along with Master Sgt. DeWayne McMills. I went to the bars like I was going to come into compliance. I got down on my knees and Master Sgt. McMills unzipped his pants and pulled out his penis and attempted to enter my mouth with his penis. I kind of blacked out of my mind and bit down on Master Sgt. McMills’ penis.

Zulu: What?

S.A.: He ran out of the booth bleeding and hollering. Master Sgt. DeWayne McMills was arrested and booked into the West Feliciana Parish Jail on the 10th day of September 2008 on committing malfeasance in office, crime against nature, and oral sexual battery. McMills posted bail and on or about Oct. 28, 2008, committed suicide by gunshot to the head at his home. And I am the one being punished.

Zulu: You have been in solitary confinement ever since? And do you have an out date?

S.A.: Yes, I have been stuck in the cell ever since. I have written to warden of security about it because I have a parole eligibility date coming up in 2017. I want to get my GED and take up welding and culinary school. As you know, Zulu, administration will not let anyone in a cell participate in any of the educational programs. It’s like I am being victimized twice. My last disciplinary report was in 2010. I am being denied access to rehabilitation opportunities.

Zulu: Can all of this be verified through court records and administration files?

S.A.: Yes, all of it.

Zulu: Thank you, Shannon, for being brave enough to share your story with everyone. Speaking out is the way to shed some light on this horrible crime. The enemy counts on your silence, young brother, so keep on doing what you do.

Fight the power
Kenny Zulu Whitmore

Send our brother some love and light: Kenny Zulu Whitmore, 86468, D-HAWK, 4L, Louisiana State Prison, Angola, LA 70712. And visit the website of this extraordinary political prisoner, imprisoned for 38 years: FreeZulu.org.

Louisiana Attorney General Says Angola 3 “Have Never Been Held in Solitary Confinement”

By James Ridgeway and Jean Casella on SOLITARYWATCH
March 21st 2013

Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace in the early 1970s, when they were placed in solitary confinement. (Photo from “In the Land of the Free.”)

James “Buddy” Caldwell, attorney general of the state of Louisiana, has released a statement saying unequivocally that Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, the two still-imprisoned members of the Angola 3, “have never been held in solitary confinement while in the Louisiana penal system.”

In fact, Wallace, now 71, and Woodfox, 66, have been in solitary for nearly 41 years, quite possibly longer than any other human beings on the planet. They were placed in solitary following the 1972 killing of a young corrections officer at Angola, and except for a few brief periods, they have remained in isolation ever since.

The statement from Caldwell follows on the heels of a ruling by a federal District Court judge in New Orleans, overturning Albert Woodfox’s conviction for the third time–in this instance, on the grounds that there had been racial bias in the selection of grand jury forepersons in Louisiana at the time of his indictment. Subsequently, Amnesty International, along with other activists, mounted a campaign urging the state of Louisiana not to appeal the federal court’s ruling. In the absence of an appeal, Woodfox would have to be given a new trial or released.

Caldwell’s statement–which was rather mysteriously sent out to an email list that included numerous prisoners’ rights advocates who have supported the Angola 3–begins: “Thank you for your interest in the ambush, savage attack and brutal murder of Officer Brent Miller at Louisiana State Penitentiary (LSP) on April 17, 1972. Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace committed this murder, stabbing and slicing Miller over 35 times.”

Caldwell clearly states that he has every intention of appealing the District Court’s decision to the notoriously conservative Fifth Circuit: “We feel confident that we will again prevail at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, if we do not, we are fully prepared and willing to retry this murderer again.” Caldwell asserts that the evidence against Woodfox is ”overpowering”: “There are no flaws in our evidence and this case is very strong.” This statement belies the fact that much of the evidence that led to Wallace and Woodfox’s conviction has since been called into question.

In particular, the primary eyewitness was shown to have been bribed by prison officials into making statements against the two men. (For more details on the case, see our earlier reporting in Mother Jones, here, here, here, and here.) The two men believe that they were targeted for the murder, and have been held in solitary for four decades, because of their status as Black Panthers and their efforts to organize against prison conditions. (The third member of the Angola 3, Robert King, convicted of a separate prison murder, was released after 29 years in solitary when his conviction was overturned in 2001).

But Caldwell’s most controversial assertion is that Wallace and Woodfox’s conditions of confinement over the past 40 years do not qualify as solitary confinement:

Contrary to popular lore, Woodfox and Wallace have never been held in solitary confinement while in the Louisiana penal system. They have been held in protective cell units known as CCR. These units were designed to protect inmates as well as correctional officers. They have always been able to communicate freely with other inmates and prison staff as frequently as they want. They have televisions on the tiers which they watch through their cell doors. In their cells they can have radios and headsets, reading and writing materials, stamps, newspapers, magazines and books. They also can shop at the canteen store a couple of times per week where they can purchase grocery and personal hygiene items which they keep in their cells.
These convicted murderers have an hour outside of their cells each day where they can exercise in the hall, talk on the phone, shower, and visit with the other 10 to 14 inmates on the tier. At least three times per week they can go outside on the yard and exercise and enjoy the sun if they want. This is all in addition to the couple of days set aside for visitations each week.
These inmates are frequently visited by spiritual advisors, medical personnel and social workers. They have had frequent and extensive contact with numerous individuals from all over the world, by telephone, mail, and face-to-face personal visits. They even now have email capability. Contrary to numerous reports, this is not solitary confinement.
Caldwell’s description does not, in fact, refute the fact that the two men are held for 23 hours a day in closed cells that measure approximately 6 x 9 feet–smaller than the average parking space. CCR, or Closed Cell Restricted, is the Louisiana prison system’s euphemism of choice for solitary confinement.

[photo: Woodfox and Wallace in recent photos.]

In addition to challenging their convictions, Wallace and Woodfox have filed a civil suit in federal court, arguing that their 40 years in solitary confinement violate the U.S. Constitution. Their lawyers argue that both have endured physical injury and “severe mental anguish and other psychological damage” from living most of their adult lives in lockdown. According to medical reports submitted to the court, the men suffer from arthritis, hypertension, and kidney failure, as well as memory impairment, insomnia, claustrophobia, anxiety, and depression. Even the psychologist brought in by the state confirmed these findings.In his statement, Caldwell warns that if they win their civil suit, “these convicted murderers…could possibly receive money and a change in their housing assignments.” Any move out of solitary has been firmly opposed by the warden of Angola, Burl Cain. In a 2008 deposition, attorneys for Woodfox asked Cain, “Let’s just for the sake of argument assume, if you can, that he is not guilty of the murder of Brent Miller.” Cain responded, “Okay, I would still keep him in CCR…I still know that he is still trying to practice Black Pantherism, and I still would not want him walking around my prison because he would organize the young new inmates. I would have me all kind of problems, more than I could stand, and I would have the blacks chasing after them.”

Caldwell himself has even more vociferously opposed releasing the men from solitary. An ambitious Democrat-turned-Republican known for his Elvis impersonations, Caldwell took office in 2007 and was reelected in 2011. He has characterized the Angola 3 as political radicals and called Woodfox “the most dangerous person on the planet.”

In the fall of 2008, after Woodfox’s conviction was overturned for the second time, a federal court judge ordered him released on bail pending the state’s appeal. Caldwell opposed the release “with every fiber of my being.” Woodfox planned to stay with his niece, but his lawyers uncovered evidence that the state had emailed the neighborhood association of the gated community where she lived to say that a murderer would be moving in next door. Caldwell soon convinced the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to revoke Woodfox’s bail. He also brought Woodfox’s habeas case to the full Fifth Circuit, which reversed the lower court ruling and reinstated his conviction.

Now that a federal judge has ruled, for the third time, that Woodfox did not receive a fair trial, Caldwell apparently feels the need to reiterate his position. “Let me be clear,” his statement concludes. ”Woodfox and Wallace are GUILTY and have NEVER been held in solitary confinement” (emphasis in the original).

Herman Wallace’s drawing of his cell.