Now comes Judge Brian A. Jackson, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, with a ruling that overturns Herman Wallace’s conviction for the 1974 murder of a prison guard, granting him full habeas relief based on the systematic exclusion of women from the Grand Jury, in violation of the 14th Amendment. Judge Jackson also orders that “the State immediately release Mr. Wallace from custody.”
Mr. Wallace, who has long maintained his innocence consistent with abundant evidence, is dying of liver cancer. He has been held in solitary confinement for forty one years, inside the notorious Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.
In 2001, Wallace received a letter from artist Jackie Sumell. After two years of correspondence, Sumell asked the question that would initiate their extraordinary collaboration, “what kind of house does a man whose been in solitary confinement for 30 years dream of?”. Though Wallace was at first reluctant to engage — he had no such dreams — he finally wrote, “let’s do the project baby, you done gone way out there in that water, let’s see how we do together”.
In 2003, the prisoner and the artist began designing Mr. Wallace’s “dream” house through detailed inside/outside dialogue. In time, the project became the subject of a major traveling exhibition, a book, and a 2012 documentary film, all of which in turn brought both heat and light to the dense thicket of legal and racial injustices suffered by Wallace during the time of his incarceration:
UPDATE FROM JACKIE SUMELL, OCTOBER 4, 2013: