BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- The chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee said Friday that two Louisiana prison inmates, former Black Panthers in solitary confinement since the 1970s, were wrongly convicted.
U.S. Rep. John Conyers did not say that inmates Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox should be released, but in a written statement said he urges "a swift and just resolution of this matter." The Michigan Democrat said "I recently became aware of evidence that may suggest both Mr. Wallace and Mr. Woodfox were wrongly convicted."
Wallace and Woodfox are two of the men activists call the "Angola Three." Wallace and Woodfox say they are victims of cruel and unusual punishment because they've been in solitary confinement at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, the state's top-security prison, since 1972. Both are appealing their convictions in the death of a guard.
Jimmy LeBlanc, Louisiana's chief of prisons, has said Wallace and Woodfox are in solitary because they would be endangered if returned to the general prison population.
Conyers visited with Wallace and Woodfox for two hours Thursday and took a tour of the prison with LeBlanc and warden Burl Cain. Conyers said a scheduling conflict prevented him from meeting with Gov. Bobby Jindal but added "I look forward to the opportunity to talk with him in the near future."
The chairman of the state House Judiciary Committee, state Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, said his committee will hold hearings on the Angola Three case, and he called on Jindal to pardon the men.
Jindal's press secretary Melissa Sellers said the state Pardon Board must make a recommendation before a pardon request can be forwarded to the governor.
Robert King, the other of the Angola Three group, had his conviction for killing another inmate overturned. He was released in 2001 after 29 years in solitary confinement. King, who once used the last name Wilkerson, lives in Texas.