I read a lot. It's part of my job as a writer. Sadly, most of what I read these days is kind of terrible. We do awful things to one another. We've been doing it for a long time. Here's something terrible that I learned today.
In 1972, Herman Wallace was in the Louisiana State Penitentiary doing a stretch for armed robbery. While he was inside, one of the prison's guards was murdered. Wallace and two other black men–Robert King and Albert Woodfox–were convicted for the murder.
There was just one problem: they weren't guilty.
To say that Wallace, King and Woodfox, known members of the militant Black Panther Party, were unpopular with the penitentiary's staff was an understatement. Back then the trio insisted that the crime was being hung on them because of the color of their skin and their political beliefs. Their declaration of innocence wasn't enough to save them from being punished for the guard's murder. The trio was declared guilty. Wallace spent the next 41 years of his life in solitary confinement.
In 2013, a United States Federal Court Judge overturned Wallace's sentence, stating in no uncertain terms that Wallace's trial had been "unconstitutional" and ordered his immediate release. The Department of Corrections complied with the order.
A few days later, Wallace died of liver cancer. The only moments of freedom he had known in over four decades were also his last. King and Woodfox were a little more lucky–both managed to stay alive for more than a few days after leaving prison.
This is what happens when justice is perverted. It's exactly why organizations like The Innocence Project and Amnesty International exist. If you think that one more person suffering for crimes that they had didn't commit is one too many, you'll want to hit up their links to see how you can contribute.
Things have been terrible for a long time. They'll continue to be so be unless each of us takes the time, in whatever way we can, to fight for what's right.