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The Angola Three: Torture in the USA's Own Backyard
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"My soul cries from all that I witnessed and endured. It does more than cry, it mourns continuously," said Black Panther Robert Hillary King, following his release from the infamous Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola in 2001, after serving his last 29 years in continuous solitary confinement. King argues that slavery persists in Angola and other U.S. prisons, citing the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which legalizes slavery in prisons as "a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted." King says: "You can be legally incarcerated but morally innocent."

Robert King, Albert Woodfox, and Herman Wallace are known as the "Angola Three," a trio of political prisoners whose supporters include Amnesty International, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Congressman John Conyers, and the ACLU. Kgalema Mothlante, the President of South Africa says their case "has the potential of laying bare, exposing the shortcomings, in the entire U.S. system." Woodfox and Wallace are the two co-founders of the Angola chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP) -- the only official prison chapter of the BPP. Both convicted in the highly contested stabbing death of white prison guard Brent Miller, Woodfox and Wallace have now spent over 36 years in solitary confinement.

The joint federal civil rights lawsuit of King, Woodfox, and Wallace, alleging that their time in solitary confinement is "cruel and unusual punishment," will go to trial any month in Baton Rouge, at the U.S. Middle District Court. Herman Wallace's appeal against his murder conviction is currently pending in the Louisiana Supreme Court, and on March 18, he was transferred to the Hunt Correctional Facility in St. Gabrielo, Louisiana, where he remains in solitary confinement. On March 2, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court heard oral arguments regarding Albert Woodfox's conviction, after the Louisiana Attorney General appealed a lower court's ruling that overturned the conviction.

An 18,000-acre former slave plantation in rural Louisiana, Angola is the largest prison in the U.S. Today, with African Americans composing over 75% of Angola's 5,108 prisoners, prison guards known as "free men," a forced 40-hour workweek, and four cents an hour as minimum wage, the resemblance to antebellum U.S. slavery is striking. In the early 1970s, it was even worse, as prisoners were forced to work 96-hour weeks (16 hours a day/six days a week) with two cents an hour as minimum wage. Officially considered (according to its own website) the "Bloodiest Prison in the South" at this time, violence from guards and between prisoners was endemic. Prison authorities sanctioned prisoner rape, and according to former Prison Warden Murray Henderson, the prison guards actually helped facilitate a brutal system of sexual slavery where the younger and physically weaker prisoners were bought and sold into submission. As part of the notorious "inmate trusty guard" system, responsible for killing 40 prisoners and seriously maiming 350 between 1972-75, some prisoners were given state-issued weapons and ordered to enforce this sexual slavery, as well as the prison's many other injustices. Life at Angola was living hell -- a 20th century slave plantation.

The Angola Panthers saw life at Angola as modern-day slavery and fought back with non-violent hunger strikes and work strikes. Prison authorities were outraged by the BPP's organizing, and overwhelming evidence has since emerged that authorities retaliated by framing these three BPP organizers for murders that they did not commit.

Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace

Both convicted of murder for the April 17, 1972 stabbing death of white prison guard Brent Miller, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace have recently had major victories in court that may soon lead to their release. In response, Angola Warden Burl Cain and the Louisiana State Attorney General, James "Buddy" Caldwell, are doing everything they can to resist this and to keep the two in solitary confinement. In sharp contrast, Miller's widow, Leontine Verrett, now questions their guilt. Interviewed in March, 2008, by NBC Nightly News, she called for a new investigation into the case: "What I want is justice. If these two men did not do this, I think they need to be out."

Woodfox and Wallace were inmates at Angola, resulting from separate robbery convictions, when they co-founded the Angola BPP chapter in 1971. Woodfox had escaped from New Orleans Parish Prison and fled to New York City, where he met BPP members, including the New York 21, before he was recaptured and sent to Angola. Wallace had met members of the Louisiana State Chapter of the BPP, including the New Orleans 12, while imprisoned at Orleans Parish.

On September 19, 2006, State Judicial Commissioner Rachel Morgan recommended overturning Wallace's conviction, on grounds that prison officials had withheld evidence from the jury that prison officials had bribed the prosecution's key eyewitness in return for his testimony. However, in May 2008, in a 2-1 vote, the State Appeals Court rejected Morgan's recommendation and refused to overturn the conviction. Wallace's appeal is now pending in the State Supreme Court, with a decision expected any month.

On June 10th, 2008, Federal Magistrate Christine Noland recommended overturning Woodfox's conviction, citing evidence of inadequate representation, prosecutorial misconduct, suppression of exculpatory evidence, and racial discrimination. Then, on November 25, U.S. District Court Judge James Brady upheld Noland's recommendation, overturned the conviction, and granted bail. Attorney General Caldwell responded by appealing to the U.S. Fifth Circuit. In December, the Fifth Circuit granted Caldwell's request to deny Woodfox bail, but indicated sympathy for the overturning of the conviction, writing: "We are not now convinced that the State has established a likelihood of success on the merits." On March 3, oral arguments were heard by appellate Judges Carolyn Dineen King, Carl E. Steart and Leslie H. Southwick, and a decision from them is now expected within six months. If the three judge panel affirms the overturning of Woodfox's conviction, the state will have 120 days to either accept the ruling or to retry Woodfox. The state has already vowed to retry him if necessary. If the Fifth Circuit rules for the state, Woodfox's conviction will be reinstated.

Ira Glasser, formerly of the ACLU, criticized AG Caldwell, writing that following the October 2008 announcement that Woodfox's niece had agreed to take him in if granted bail, Caldwell "embarked upon a public scare campaign reminiscent of the kind of inflammatory hysteria that once was used to provoke lynch mobs. He called Woodfox a violent rapist, even though he had never been charged, let alone convicted, of rape; he sent emails to [Woodfox's niece's] neighbors calling Woodfox a convicted murderer and violent rapist; and neighbors were urged to sign petitions opposing his release. In the end, his niece and family were sufficiently frightened and threatened that Woodfox rejected the plan to live with them while on bail." In his Nov. 25 ruling, Judge Brady himself criticized the intimidation campaign: "it is apparent that the [neighborhood] association was not told Mr. Woodfox is frail, sickly, and has a clean conduct record for more than twenty years."

When the October 27-29 National Public Radio (NPR) series on the case reported directly from Angola, reporter Laura Sullivan observed, "a hundred black men are in the field, bent over picking tomatoes. A single white officer on a horse sits above them, a shotgun in his lap … It's the same as it looked 40 years ago, and 100 years ago." Commenting that many at Angola today "seem to want to bury this case in a place no one will find it," NPR reported that Warden Burl Cain and others refused to comment. However, Caldwell told NPR he is convinced that Woodfox and Wallace are guilty, and that he will appeal Woodfox's case all the way to the US Supreme Court. "This is a very dangerous person," Caldwell says. "This is the most dangerous person on the planet."

As NPR documented, there is no physical evidence linking Woodfox or Wallace to the murder. A bloody fingerprint was found at the scene but it matches neither prisoner's prints. Prison officials have always refused to test that fingerprint against their own inmate fingerprint database. Caldwell vows to continue this policy, telling NPR: "A fingerprint can come from anywhere … We're not going to be fooled by that."

Caldwell also told NPR that he firmly believes the testimony of the prosecution's key eyewitness, Hezekiah Brown, a serial rapist who had been sentenced to life without parole. Brown first told prison officials that he didn't know anything, but he later testified to seeing Miller stabbed to death by four inmates: Woodfox and Wallace, and two others who are now deceased: Chester Jackson (who testified for the state and pled guilty to a lesser charge) and Gilbert Montegut (who was acquitted after an officer provided an alibi).

Pardoned in 1986, and now deceased, Brown always denied receiving special favors from prison authorities in exchange for his testimony. However, prison documents reveal special treatment, including special housing and a carton of cigarettes given to him every week. Testifying at Woodfox's 1998 retrial, former Warden Murray Henderson admitted telling Brown that if he provided testimony helping to "crack the case," he would reward him by lobbying for his pardon.

Solitary Confinement for "Black Pantherism"

In early 2008, a 25,000-signature petition initiated by ColorOfChange.org, calling for an investigation into Woodfox and Wallace's convictions and solitary confinement, was delivered to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal by the head of the State Legislature's Judiciary Committee, Cedric Richmond. To this day, Jindal remains silent on the case.

In March, 2008, following a visit from Congressman John Conyers, Chairman of the US House Judiciary Committee; Innocence Project founder Barry Scheck; and Cedric Richmond, Wallace and Woodfox were transferred from solitary and housed together in a newly-built maximum security dormitory for twenty men. This temporary release from solitary lasted for eight months, during which time Woodfox reflected: "The thing I noticed most about being with Herman is the laughing, the talking, the bumping up against one another … we've been denied this for so long. And every once in a while he'll put his arm around me or I'll put my arm around him. It's those kinds of things that make you human. And we're truly enjoying that."

In April, following his visit, Conyers wrote a letter to the FBI requesting their documents relating to the case, stating: "I am deeply troubled by what evidence suggests was a tragic miscarriage of justice with regard to these men. There is significant evidence that suggests not only their innocence, but also troubling misconduct by prison officials." The FBI responded by claiming that they had no files on the case, because, they had supposedly been destroyed.

In his deposition taken October 22, 2008, Warden Burl Cain explained why he opposed granting Woodfox bail and removing him from solitary confinement. Asked what gave him "such concern" about Woodfox, Cain stated: "He wants to demonstrate. He wants to organize. He wants to be defiant … A hunger strike is really, really bad, because you could see he admitted that he was organizing a peaceful demonstration. There is no such thing as a peaceful demonstration in prison." Cain then stated that even if Woodfox were innocent of the murder, he would still want to keep him in solitary, because "I still know he has a propensity for violence … 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 kinds of problems, more than I could stand, and I would have the blacks chasing after them. I would have chaos and conflict, and I believe that."

The only other known U.S. prisoner to have spent so many years in solitary confinement is Hugo Pinell, in California. One of the San Quentin Six, Pinell was a close comrade of Black Panther and prison author, George Jackson. Currently housed in Pelican Bay State Prison's notorious "Security Housing Unit", Pinell has been in continuous solitary since at least 1971. The recently freed Angola 3 prisoner Robert Hillary King says Pinell "is a clear example of a political prisoner." This January, Pinell was denied parole for the next 15 years, which King says "is a sentence to die in prison. This is cruel and unusual punishment, which may be legal but is definitely not moral."

Robert Hillary King

The new book From the Bottom of the Heap: The Autobiography of Robert Hillary King has just been released by PM Press. This inspiring book tells of King's triumph over the horrors of Angola. Born poor in rural Louisiana, he was raised mostly by his heroic grandmother, who King recounts "worked the sugar cane fields from sun up 'til sun down for less than a dollar a day. During the off-season, she washed, ironed clothes, and scrubbed floors for whites for pennies a day or for leftover food. Her bunions and blisters told a bitter but vivid tale of her travails."

King first entered Angola at the age of 18, for a robbery conviction. In his book, he admits to doing some non-violent burglaries at the time, but maintains his innocence regarding this conviction and every one since. Granted parole in 1965, at the age of 22, he returned to New Orleans, got married, and began a brief semi-pro boxing career as "Speedy King." He was then arrested on charges of robbery, just weeks before his wife Clara gave birth to their son. After being held for over 11 months, his friend pled guilty to a lesser charge and was released on time served. Simultaneously, the DA dropped the charges against King, but he was not released, because his arrest, coupled with his friend's guilty plea was deemed a parole violation. Therefore, King was sent back to Angola where he served 15 months and was released again in 1969.

Upon release, King was again arrested on robbery charges, and was convicted, even though his co-defendant testified that he had only picked King out of a mug shot lineup after being tortured by police into making a false statement. King appealed, and while being held at New Orleans Parish Prison, he escaped, but was re-captured weeks later. Upon returning to Orleans Parish he met some of the New Orleans 12--BPP members arrested after a confrontation with police at a housing project. He was radicalized and worked with the Panthers organizing non-violent hunger strikes, and engaging in self-defense against violent attacks from prison authorities.

In 1972, King moved to Angola shortly after the death of prison guard Brent Miller. Upon arrival, on grounds that King "wanted to play lawyer for another inmate," he was immediately put into solitary confinement: first in the "dungeon," then the "Red Hat," and finally to the Closed Correction Cell (CCR) unit, where he remained until his 2001 release. At CCR, King writes that the Angola BPP chapter and others continued to struggle, using the one hour a day outside their cells (when they were allowed to shower and interact in the walkway) to organize: "That was how we talked, passed papers, educated each other, and coordinated our actions."

King writes about the fight, started in 1977, to end the practice of routine rectal searches of prisoners: "Coming to a consensus conclusion that this practice was a carryover from slavery (before being sold, the slave had to be stripped and subjected to anal examination), and after months of appealing to our keepers, we decided to take a bold step: we would simply refuse a voluntary anal search. We would not be willing participants in our own degradation." When King and others refused, they were viciously beaten. Woodfox hired a lawyer on the prisoners' behalf and they filed a successful civil suit. The court ruled to ban "routine anal searches." Another victory came after a one month hunger strike that stopped the unhealthy and dehumanizing practice of putting the inmate's food on the floor to be slid underneath the cell door, whereby food would often be lost and the remaining food would usually get dirty.

In 1973, King was accused of murdering another prisoner, and was convicted at a trial where he was bound and gagged. After years of maintaining his innocence and appealing, his conviction was overturned in 2001, after he reluctantly pled guilty to a lesser charge of "conspiracy to commit murder" and was released on time served.

Kenny "Zulu" Whitmore

On June 21, 2008, Robert King attended the unveiling of a 40-foot mosaic dedicated to Angola prisoner and Angola BPP member Kenneth "Zulu" Whitmore, launching the "Free Zulu" campaign. King is working to publicize his case, saying "Zulu is a true warrior, Panther, a servant of the people. He has fought a good battle, for so long, unrecognized, unsupported!"

The mosaic adorns the back of activist/artist Carrie Reichardt's home in the West London suburb of Chiswick. Reichardt says "we chose to base the design around a modern day interpretation of the Goddess Kali. She is considered the goddess of liberation, time and transformation. We wanted to use a strong, positive image of a female that would give hope and encourage others to join the struggle to bring about social change. Her speech bubble says 'The revolution is now'."

Imprisoned since 1977, Whitmore met Herman Wallace while imprisoned in 1973 at the East Baton Rouge Prison. Whitmore was released but then arrested and subsequently imprisoned at Angola when he was convicted of robbery and second-degree murder after he had returned to the community and been a political organizer. Just like the Angola 3, the case against him is full of holes, and he is appealing his conviction. Whitmore does not have a lawyer yet, so the freezulu.co.uk website is raising money to support his appeal.

Angola: The Last Slave Plantation

Three court cases are now pending: the federal civil rights lawsuit at the U.S. Middle District Court, Albert Woodfox's appeal at the U.S. Fifth Circuit, and Wallace's appeal at the State Supreme Court. At this critical stage, a new DVD has just been released by PM Press, titled The Angola 3: Black Panthers and the Last Slave Plantation. The DVD is narrated by death-row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, and features footage of King's 2001 release, as well as an interview with King and a variety of former Panthers and other supporters of the Angola 3, including Bo Brown, David Hilliard, Geronimo Ji Jaga (formerly Pratt), Marion Brown, Luis Talamantez, Noelle Hanrahan, Malik Rahim, and the late Anita Roddick.

The perpetuation of white supremacy and slavery at Angola is a central theme throughout the film. Fred Hampton Jr., emphasizes that "we've got to make the connection between these modern day plantations, and what went down with chattel slavery." Scott Fleming, a lawyer for the Angola 3, says: "That prison is still run like a slave plantation … People like Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace are the example of what will happen to you if you resist that system."

Longtime Japanese-American activist Yuri Kochiyama says that Woodfox and Wallace "love people and will fight for justice even if it puts them on the spot. I think of them as real heroes … who hated to see people in the prison get hurt." San Francisco journalist and former BPP member Kiilu Nyasha adds that "it behooves us to not forget those who were on the frontlines for us. … We need to come to their rescue because they came to ours."

The many years of repression and torture have failed to extinguish the Angola 3's spirit or will to resist, as Woodfox explains in the DVD: "At heart, mind and spirit, we're still Black Panthers. We still believe in the same principles as the BPP, we still advocate the ten point program. We still advocate that all prisoners, black or white, are human beings. They deserve to be treated as human beings."
http://www.alternet.org/rights/139222/th...age=entire
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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UPDATE 7:30CST: Herman Wallace of the Angola 3 IS FREE

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[TD="bgcolor: transparent"]By: Angola 3 News Tuesday October 1, 2013 9:23 am[/TD]
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Update from A3 Coalition: Free At Last! Herman Wallace Has Finally Been Released from Prison (note that tonight's vigil location has changed to LSU, outside the hospital emergency room, at 2021 Perdido St New Orleans, LA 70112).
Update: via activist Scott Crow who is speaking to Jackie Sumell of Herman's House, Herman Wallace is FREE and being taken to a safe place. See these tweets for more -MyFDL Editor:
BREAKING NEWS!!!! HERMAN WALLACE IS COMING HOME! Please join supporters at Coliseum Square, New Orleans (Race… http://t.co/qnG2udIvf5
scott crow (@scott_crow) October 2, 2013
Update: The Guardian reports that Louisiana is refusing to release Herman Wallace, despite a Federal court order. However, Judge Jackson has now responded with a second order to immediately release him, explicitly saying that State authorities will be in contempt of court if they do not comply.

Read today's court ruling here.
Miraculous news this morning! Judge Jackson 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!, The Atlantic, and the SF Bay View.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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Sept. 30!: AMY GOODMAN: We're on the road in New Orleans, Louisiana. We're broadcasting from New Orleans public television station WLAE. We turn now to look at the case of a man who's spent more than 42 years in solitary confinement in Louisiana, believed to be one of the longest-serving prisoners who served on death row for that amount of time. He is dying now of liver cancer. His supporters are pleading for his compassionate release.
I'm talking about Herman Wallace, a member of the so-called Angola Three. He and two others were in jail for armed robbery, then accused in 1972 of murdering a prison guard at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, known as Angola. The men say they were framed because of their political activism as members one of the first prison chapters of the Black Panther Party. Herman Wallace is now 71 years old in the late stages of liver cancer. Robert King Wilkerson was released in 2001 after 29 years in solitary confinement. The third of the Angola Three, Albert Woodfox, remains in prison and says he's been subjected to strip searches and anal cavity searches as often as six times a day.
Well, as Herman Wallace faces the end of his life, we're joined now by two people. But first I want to turn to a clip from a new film about Herman's collaboration with one of our guests. Twelve years ago, artist Jackie Sumell began writing to Herman Wallace, and one day she asked him, "What kind of house does a man who has lived in a six-foot-by-nine-foot box for over 30 years dream of?" Wallace wrote back with a description, and soon afterward Jackie made a commitment to build the house so Herman could either live in it upon his release, or so it could serve as a symbol of survival and hope. The two have often spoken by phone in between their visits, though Herman is now too weak to speak anymore. The calls are part of the story documented in a new film called Herman's House that just premiered on PBS on POV. In this clip, it was Herman who comforts Jackie after the Louisiana Court of Appeals just turned down his latest appeal.
HERMAN WALLACE: Jackie?
JACKIE SUMELL: Yes.
HERMAN WALLACE: What's the matter?
JACKIE SUMELL: Nothing.
HERMAN WALLACE: I'll see you tomorrow, right?
JACKIE SUMELL: Yeah.
HERMAN WALLACE: Jackie.
JACKIE SUMELL: What?
HERMAN WALLACE: Look, this is a struggle, kiddo, all right? You hear me?
JACKIE SUMELL: I hear you.
HERMAN WALLACE: This is a struggle, and it's worth it. It's part of that. You have to roll with that. And it should make us stronger, right?
JACKIE SUMELL: Yeah, well
HERMAN WALLACE: So, please, come on, last thing you want to feel is down. You are too much of a strong, happy person for that. And I think as long as you know that I'm OK, I think that's all that should matter, right?
JACKIE SUMELL: That's correct.
HERMAN WALLACE: Right, and I'm OK.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Herman Wallace speaking with our guest today, Jackie Sumell. She is the New Orleans-based artist behind Herman's House, a collaboration with Herman Wallace and the subject of this new documentary by the same name that premiered on PBS POV this summer.
We're also joined here in New Orleans by Malik Rahim, one of the founders of the Louisiana chapter of the Black Panther Party. He introduced the Angola Three members to the party in prison. He is also co-founder of the Common Ground Collective, which helped bring thousands of people from all over the world to help rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. In 2008, Malik ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now!
We did submit a request to interview Herman Wallace after he was removed into the prison hospital, but we were told James LeBlanc, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, had, quote, "denied similar requests in the [last] few weeks and he did not want to make an exception in this case."
Jackie Sumell, Malik Rahim, welcome to Democracy Now! Jackie, you just came back from seeing Herman yesterday. What is his condition?
JACKIE SUMELL: Thank you so much, Amy. It's an honor to be here. I had an opportunity to visit with Herman yesterday. And it's really obvious, beyond a reasonable doubt, that we are days, if not hours, from watching the state of Louisiana kill another innocent man behind bars.
AMY GOODMAN: Was he able to speak?
JACKIE SUMELL: He's still able to speak a few words. Yesterday he asked me to put his cap on. The inmates had just bathed him, and he was without his cap. He was cold. His words are few and far between. He sleeps most of the time. His belly is distended. He's incredibly uncomfortable. And I think these will be his last few breaths before he joins the ancestors.
AMY GOODMAN: Compassionate release, is it a possibility?
JACKIE SUMELL: I'm not sure in the state of Louisiana if "compassion" is part of the vocabulary of those who are in power. I always felt that compassionate release or asking for compassionate release was important in terms of like a multipronged effort to have Herman released. But there's been 42 years of the state continuing to deny Herman's due process, so
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, 42 years in solitary confinement.
JACKIE SUMELL: Yeah, it's incredible. It's incredible. He's the longest known serving in solitary confinement in the United States. And one of the things I think is important to illustrate, or that Herman's fight has been, is to illustrate the fact that the U.S. still employs the use of solitary confinement. There's over 80,000 inmates at any given time, and, as you said, the highest incarcerator in the world, that are in solitary confinement, a six-foot-by-nine-foot cell, a minimum of 23 hours a day. And it's an indefinite period that most people are in solitary confinement.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play a clip of Teenie Verret, the widow of the murdered prison guard. She was just 17 when her husband, Brent Miller, was stabbed to death in 1972. This is the murder that Herman Wallace was convicted of. This is Teenie Verret from the documentary In the Land of the Free.
TEENIE VERRET: I've been living this for 36 years. There's not a year that goes by that I don't have to relive this. And it just keeps going and going. And then these men, I mean, if they did not do thisand I believe that they didn'tthey have been living a nightmare for 36 years.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Teenie Verret saying, if they did not do thisand she doesn't believe that Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace did thisthen they should not be serving these sentences.
JACKIE SUMELL: You know, there's tens of thousands of people who believe that they did not do this. You know, I have absolutely no doubt that Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox and obviously Robert King are innocent.
AMY GOODMAN: And Robert King is out.
JACKIE SUMELL: Yeah, Robert King was released in 2001, under investigation for the same crime and had just served 29 years of solitary confinement for a crime he didn't commit.
AMY GOODMAN: Malik Rahim, you are well known in this area. Yes, you ran for Congress. You helped save New Orleans after the Hurricane Katrina. You knew these men in prison. They say they were framed for this murder because of their political organizing. You were involved with that political organizing.
MALIK RAHIM: Yes. First I want to say that compassionatecompassionate justice do not exist in Louisiana. Their confinement is based upon what the state call Black Pantherism, you know, that the Black Panther Party was just an organization of blacks who hated whites and was bent on killing. And that's what they have based their conviction on. They stay in solitary, have been, basically because of that Black Pantherism. It have been used throughout their 41 years. Burl Cainthey have repeatedly said that even if they was found innocent, he would still be keep them in solitary, because of Black Pantherism.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to a clip of Herman Wallace in his own words describing the impact of solitary confinement on his body. This is from the film that just premiered this summer on POV called Herman's House.
HERMAN WALLACE: Being in a cage for such an extended period of time, it has its downfalls. I mean, you may not feel it, you may not know it, you may think that you're OK, and you just perfunctorily move about, you know. However, when you was removed from out of that type of situation and placed in an open environment where, you know, you're even breathing that oxygen and it's getting into your lungs and you're feeling something growing within you, andyou begin to develop a different mode within your body. I even watched my body. I've looked in the mirror, and I've seen muscles and [bleep] begin to pop out there. I began to run even faster and [bleep]. And I'm saying, "Whoa, what the hell is going on here?" Much was preserved. But then I got locked up again after eight months. And being locked up like that, the whole body just got confused.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Herman Wallace describing solitary confinement. Jackie, you've talked to him a great deal about this.
JACKIE SUMELL: Yeah. I mean, one of the things I want to be clear about, Amy, is that the state of Louisiana has never relied on lethal injection to kill its incarcerated. Right? There's a history, a documented history, of neglect, abuse, cruel and unusual punishment, and what I would call lethal injustice, which is the denial and delaying of due process or our so-called constitutional guarantees. And within that framework, you have men who are spending 40 years in solitary confinement.
AMY GOODMAN: Jackie, you did something unbelievable with Herman Wallace. You wrote to him and said you wanted to build a house that he would design?
JACKIE SUMELL: Yeah, it's unusual.
AMY GOODMAN: What was the question you put to him?
JACKIE SUMELL: I was at Stanford University, a full ride with stipend to study art, when I met Robert King. And it was really hard for me to
AMY GOODMAN: One of the Angola Three, the one who was released.
JACKIE SUMELL: The one who was released. It was just about two months after he was released. And it was really hard for me to contextualize my relative privilege to the situation that Herman and Albert were still enduring. And I knew that I had to do something. And, you know, my greatest tool is my imagination. So I asked Herman what kind of house he dreams of after spending then 30 years in solitary confinement in a six-foot-by-nine-foot box. And I did that with the hope that this would be the opportunity for him to just use his imagination to get out of that box.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to play a clip of Herman from Herman's House where Herman Wallace describes what sort of details he'd like to see as part of his house.
HERMAN WALLACE: Jackie, in your letter you asked me what sort of house does a man who lives in a six-foot-by-nine-foot cell dream of? In the front of the house, I have three squares of gardens. The gardens are the easiest for me to imagine, and I can see they would be certain to be full of gardenias, carnations and tulips. This is of the utmost importance. I would like for guests to be able to smile and walk through flowers all year long.
AMY GOODMAN: This is not just a figment of Herman Wallace's imagination, Jackie. You are building this house. You're here buying property for this house, as Herman Wallace lays dying in a prison hospital.
JACKIE SUMELL: Yeah, I made a commitment to Herman over 10 years ago that I would build his dream house, with the intention, as you said at the beginning of this segment, that this house is a testament to his imagination, to the triumph of the imagination, and to Herman's legacy, which will outlive his flesh and bonesyou know, Herman's legacy, his commitment to the people and the story of his injustice. And it's important to build this house in the incarceration capital of the world.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to the end of Herman's House, the documentary, where Herman Wallace describes a dream. Listen carefully.
HERMAN WALLACE: I've had a dream where I got to the front gate, and there's a whole lot of people out there. And you ain't going to believe this, but I was dancing my way out. I was doing the jitterbug. I was doing all kind of crazy, stupid-ass [bleep], you know? And people was just laughing and clapping and [bleep], you know, until I walked out that gate. And I remember that dream, and I turn around, you know, and I look, and there are all the brothers in the window waving and throwing the fist sign, you know? It'sit's rough, man. It's so real, you know. I can feel it even now, you know, talking about that.
AMY GOODMAN: Herman Wallace, describing his dream of freedom. Malik Rahim, your thoughts as we end today, as, well, we don't know how many minutes or days Herman Wallace has left?
MALIK RAHIM: I believe that this is one of the saddest occasions in my life. It wouldn't have been a Common Ground if it wouldn't have been the Angola Three. And if it wouldn't have been a Common Ground, then the over 200,000 people that we serve in direct services, what would have happened to them? You cannot say that justice prevail when you have individuals that, under the harshest conditionsI mean, going through the brutal summers locked in those cells, and the coldest winters locked in those cells, and still have enough compassion to help save this city that have literally forgotten him. You know, I mean, a Common Ground never would have been sent out the way it was. It was started by a commonby an Angola Three supporter, scott crow. You know, it never would have happened without the Angola Three. And then this is the reward that he get for saving this city and this area, is to die in a prison cell. You know, I mean, it's something thatyou know, it leave a bitter taste in my mouth.
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass
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