NEW ORLEANS – A 71-year-old man who spent more than four decades in solitary confinement in Louisiana died Friday, less than a week after a judge freed him and granted him a new trial.
Herman Wallace's attorneys said he died at a supporter's home in New Orleans. Wallace had been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and stopped receiving treatment.
Jackie Sumell, a longtime supporter of Wallace, said he was surrounded by friends and family when he died. Wallace at one point told them, "I love you all," according to Sumell.
"He was in and out of consciousness," she said.
U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson in Baton Rouge had ordered Wallace released from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola on Tuesday after granting him a new trial. Jackson ruled women were unconstitutionally excluded from the grand jury that indicted Wallace in the stabbing death of the 23-year-old guard, Brent Miller.
A West Feliciana Parish grand jury re-indicted Wallace on charges connected to Miller's death on Thursday. District Attorney Sam D'Aquilla told The Advocate newspaper that Jackson ordered a new trial because he "perceived a flaw in the indictment — not his murder conviction."
Wallace and two other inmates held in solitary confinement for years came to be known as the "Angola 3."
Wallace's attorneys said in a statement Friday that it was an honor to represent him.
"Herman endured what very few of us can imagine, and he did it with grace, dignity, and empathy to the end," they said. "Although his freedom was much too brief, it meant the world to Herman to spend these last three days surrounded by the love of his family and friends. One of the final things that Herman said to us was, 'I am free. I am free.'"
Wallace, of New Orleans, was serving a 50-year armed robbery sentence when Miller was stabbed to death.
Wallace and fellow "Angola 3" member Albert Woodfox denied involvement in Miller's killing, claiming they were targeted because they helped establish a prison chapter of the Black Panther Party at the Angola prison in 1971, set up demonstrations and organized strikes for better conditions.
In 2009, Wallace was moved from Angola to "closed-cell restriction" at Hunt Correctional in St. Gabriel, where he recently was taken to the prison's hospital unit.
In 2010, Woodfox was moved to the David Wade Correctional Center in Homer, where he remains in custody.
The third "Angola 3" member, Robert King, who was convicted of killing a fellow inmate in 1973, was released in 2001 after his conviction was reversed.