A judge in Baton Rouge has ordered the immediate release of Herman Wallace, a terminally ill member of the Angola 3 who spent more than four decades in solitary confinement in Louisiana's prisons.
The former Black Panther and New Orleans native did not receive a fair trial for the 1972 stabbing murder of an Angola prison guard because there were no women on the jury, District Judge Brian A. Jackson said in his ruling. Nearly 40 years after his conviction, Wallace the grand jury indictment was vacated and his release ordered, Jackson added.
But the state could, and will, attempt to block his release, said civil rights attorney George Kendall. Although Jackson's ruling overturns Wallace's conviction, the state has 30 days to notify the courts that they plan to re-indict him.
If Wallace' release does occur, Kendall said he expected it to occur within the next few days.
Attorney General Buddy Caldwell diverted questions to the East Baton Rouge District Attorney's office; that office did not return media calls for comment.
Jackson's ruling was in response to a writ of habeaus corpus Wallace filed that said he did not receive a fair trial and was therefore being held illegally by the state. Earlier this month, a magistrate judge recommended that Jackson strike down Wallace's writ, but Jackson decided Tuesday to go in the opposite direction.
"The record in this case makes clear that Mr. Wallace's grand jury was improperly chosen in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of the equal protection of the laws.