A gruesome legal battle over the fate of a dying man is being played out at the Hunt correctional center in St Gabriel, Louisiana, as state authorities refuse to release a former member of the Black Panther movement despite a federal court ordering they do so.
Herman Wallace, who was held for more than 40 years in solitary confinement in Louisiana jails, is still being confined inside the prison although Judge Brian Jackson ordered on Tuesday that he be immediately released. Wallace, 71, is suffering from lung cancer and is believed to have just days to live.
An ambulance is standing by outside the prison and lawyers for Wallace are also present. But the district attorney for East Baton Rouge has challenged the federal court order, and in the light of the challenge the Louisiana department of corrections is refusing to set the prisoner free.
The unseemly tussle over the fate of a dying man is wholly in keeping with the history of Wallace's penal history up to this point. A member of the so-called Angola Three, he was convicted in 1974 for killing prison guard Brent Miller in Angola jail – but has always professed his innocence.
Wallace was then kept for 41 years in isolation, as has been his co-defendant and fellow Angola Three member Albert Woodfox.