With great joy, we can announce that we have just received an opinion from Commissioner Rachel Morgan of the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge recommending that Herman Wallace’s 1974 murder conviction be reversed. The opinion is the result of an evidentiary hearing held inside the Louisiana State Penitentiary on September 19, and gives us new hope that Herman, who is 65 years old and has now been in solitary confinement for 34 years, may soon win his freedom. There are, however, still struggles ahead.
The Commissioner found that the prosecution violated Herman’s due process rights by hiding from the jury and defense lawyers the fact that it had provided prison informant Hezekiah Brown, their key witness, with the promise of a pardon from a life sentence as well as a carton of cigarettes per week and a private room with a television on prison grounds. Under the law, this constitutional violation requires that Herman’s conviction for the 1972 murder of a correctional officer be overturned. This case, like so many others, involves an incompetent and biased investigation focusing on innocent men and prosecutors who lied and cheated to win convictions.
We are still several steps away from this decision resulting in Herman’s release. The Commissioner’s recommended ruling will now be presented to the district judge, who has the power to adopt it as is (which routinely happens), amend it, or order further hearings. We are hopeful, given the strength of Herman’s case and the reasoning of the opinion, that the court will adopt the Commissioner’s recommendation as it is written and overturn Herman’s conviction.
If the court does overturn the conviction, it is likely that the Baton Rouge district attorney’s office will appeal that decision to the Louisiana Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, a process that could take as long as two years. It is also possible that the state could seek to retry Herman, but we would vigorously challenge a retrial at this late stage as a violation of Herman’s constitutional rights. Moreover, considering the weakness of the state’s evidence, it is difficult to envision a retrial resulting in any verdict other than acquittal.
We spoke at length with Herman and his codefendant Albert Woodfox today. They are both overjoyed. Herman was able to personally notify several of his family members and friends, and he asked us to thank all of the dozens, if not hundreds, of people who have contributed to this cause over the years. Albert is hopeful that success in Herman’s case will help him, as he is just beginning the process of litigating a federal habeas corpus petition.
We still have a long way to go before Herman and Albert are freed. We will keep everyone informed of developments in the case. In the meantime, check out this new music video dedicated to the Angola 3 case, produced by Dave Stewart of Eurythmics, and the AP article on the new decision.
Nick Trenticosta and Scott Fleming were attorneys for Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox. They can be reached at: email@example.com