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Herman Wallace, "Angola 3" prisoner who spent 41 years in solitary confinement, dies 3 days after release

Herman Wallace, left, and his legal team discuss his trip home to New Orleans after his release from Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel, La., Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. AP Photo/The Times-Picayune, Lauren McGaughy

Herman Wallace, left, and his legal team after his release from Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel, La., Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013.
AP Photo
(CBS/AP) 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 was one of the three men who were convicted in the 1972 killing of 23-year-old Brent Miller, an Angola, La. prison guard.

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.

Wallace was held for years at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. 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.

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 prison 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...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."

According to the statement, one of the last things Herman said was, "I am free. I am free."

Amnesty International USA last year had delivered a petition to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's office, containing 65,000 signatures from people around the world who called the men's solitary confinement inhuman and degrading.

Although the group's executive director, Steven W. Hawkins, welcomed the court's ruling on granting Wallace a new trial, he said it was tragic that it happened as Herman had only "days or hours to live."

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 2010, Woodfox was moved to the David Wade Correctional Center in Homer, where he remains in solitary confinement awaiting trial.

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. According to Wallace's attorneys, King speaks around the world about prisoners held in solitary confinement.

Complete coverage of Herman  Wallace's case on Crimesider

  • Iris Carreras

    Iris Carreras covers crime for CBSNews.com

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