A judge in the US state of Louisiana ordered the immediate release Tuesday of a terminally ill former Black Panther who spent 40 years in solitary confinement for murder.
Herman Wallace, who is dying from liver cancer is one of the “Angola three,” named after a notorious prison where they were held that was built on the site of a former plantation worked by slaves from Africa.
The three embraced the Black Panther movement while already in prison for lesser crimes.
The trio was active in organizing sit-ins and other protests to demand desegregation and better protection of inmates against abuses.
Wallace, who was behind bars for armed robbery, and fellow Panther Albert Woodfox, were sentenced to life after being convicted of stabbing a white prison guard to death in 1972.
A third, Robert King, was never charged but blamed for the murder nonetheless and, like Wallace and Woodfox, placed in solitary confinement. He was released after 29 years.
No fingerprints taken from the scene matched those of the men convicted of the crime, and witnesses said they were working in another part of the prison.
In July, Wallace personally wrote to US District Judge Brian Jackson to plead for an expedited review of his case, noting that it had been three and a half years since he had filed a habeas corpus petition and no action had been taken.
In a response, Jackson reversed Wallace’s 1974 conviction Tuesday and “ordered that the state immediately release Mr. Wallace from custody,” according to a copy of the decision obtained by AFP.