Herman Wallace passed away surrounded by family and friends, finally free after serving over 40 years in solitary confinement in a Louisiana prison.
71-year-old Wallace died early this morning in New Orleans, at the home of Ashley Wennerstrom, a close friend and the program director at Tulane’s School of Medicine. She told ABC News:
He was surrounded by a whole lot of friends and family in the last few days of his life. He was definitely aware that he was no longer incarcerated and he was happy to be free.
Wallace was released from the Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel on Tuesday evening and was taken by ambulance to a New Orleans hospital for treatment of advanced liver cancer.
Wennerstrom explained that Wallace was “relatively alert” in the last few days of his life and that he recognized all of the people who visited him. She said:
I’d have to write a book to be able to describe what a lovely person he was. I know he would want to be remembered as someone who fought for human rights and human dignity.
He always thought of himself as a person who was making an extreme sacrifice for a much greater cause, bringing attention to the horrendous injustices that are part of our criminal justice system and someone who was also bringing awareness to the plight of human rights around the world.
Wallace’s issued a statement today saying they were honored to represent him. They wrote:
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. One of the final things that Herman said to us was, ‘I am free. I am free.’
Wallace was released after a new trial was ordered by U.S. District Chief Judge Brian Jackson in Baton Rouge because he said women were “unconstitutionally excluded” from the grand jury that indicted Wallace in the stabbing death of a prison guard in 1974, which “violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of ‘the equal protection of the laws.’ … thereby rendering his conviction and resulting sentence unconstitutional.”