[Ppnews] Update & Petition for Justice for the Angola 3
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Mar 18 19:28:24 EDT 2008
Justice for the Angola 3
For 35 years, Jim Crow justice in Louisiana has kept Herman Wallace
and Albert Woodfox locked in solitary confinement for a crime
everyone knows they didn't commit.
Despite overwhelming evidence of their innocence, the "Angola 3",
spend 23 hours each day in a 6x9 cell on the site of a former
plantation. Prison officials - and the state officials who could
intervene - won't end the terrible sentence. They've locked them up
and thrown away the key because they challenged a system that deals an
uneven hand based on the color of one's skin and tortures those who
assert their humanity.
We can help turn things around by making it a political liability for
the authorities at Angola to continue the racist status quo, and by
forcing federal and state authorities to intervene. I've signed on
with ColorOfChange.org to demand an investigation into this clear case
of unequal justice. Will you join us?
Sign the Petition
Team seeks to free Angola Three
Long confinement in solitary decried
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
By Gwen Filosa
Citing "lost" evidence, fabricated eyewitness testimony, and the
Louisiana Department of Corrections' zeal to quickly end its
investigation into the 1972 murder of a prison guard at Angola,
defense lawyers Monday called for the release of two men known as
part of the "Angola 3."
The three men, all from New Orleans, are Albert Woodfox, Herman
"Hooks" Wallace and Robert King, who were blamed for the fatal
stabbing of officer Brent Miller at the Louisiana State Penitentiary
in 1972, when it was known as one of the most bloody and brutal state
prisons in the United States.
King, originally sentenced to Angola for armed robbery, was never
charged in Miller's killing yet was blamed by prison officials. He
was freed in 2001, after his 1973 conviction of murdering a fellow
inmate was overturned by a federal court and he pleaded guilty to
conspiracy to commit murder.
He remains an advocate for the remaining two men, whose cells were
nearby as he lived in solitary confinement for 29 of his 31 years at Angola.
Woodfox and Wallace, both serving time for armed robbery in 1972,
were found guilty of Miller's murder and not only locked away for
life at Angola but placed in solitary confinement, which at Angola
amounts to a 6-by-9-foot cell, where inmates remain 23 hours a day.
King was also linked to the guard's killing, although he was not at
the prison at the time Miller was stabbed 32 times.
"Public safety and the safety of my security staff is what we're all
about first, and their comfort level is second," Warden Burl Cain
said in 2001 of his staff's decision to keep Woodfox and Wallace in
single cells as they serve their life sentences.
Miller, a white correctional officer, died at age 23 at the prison.
In 1972, Angola was a horror show of corruption and abuse that
inspired state legislators and a newly elected governor to call for
an investigation into what was taking place behind the front gates,
where none of the guards was black.
"It was also completely segregated," said Nick Trenticosta, a New
Orleans lawyer who continues to fight for the freedom of Woodfox and
Wallace. "There were lots and lots of weapons, at least a murder a
week -- inmates being murdered. It was against that backdrop that
Albert and Herman formed a Black Panther Party chapter. They were
trying to stop the sexual slavery and rampant rage occurring there
everyday." King was a member of the Black Panther chapter.
Left to fend for themselves at Angola, inmates in 1973 were subject
to being "sold" to each other to be used as "sex slaves" or
prostituted out to other inmates in exchange for cigarettes or other
After Brent Miller was left to die the morning of April 17, 1972, in
the Pine 1 dormitory, prison officials were determined to bring the
killers to justice.
They believed that the killing was a racially motivated attack on the
administration and the prison handled the investigation.
Among the staff at Angola, the image of losing one of their own to
murder still resonates. Cain dismisses any notion that inmates in
solitary confinement at his prison are treated poorly.
Five fingerprints -- including one made in blood -- and a homemade
knife were found on the scene, but none of those items was linked to
In November 2006, a state judicial commissioner reversed Wallace's
conviction, largely because the only eyewitness the jury heard was an
inmate who, it was later revealed, had been given special treatment
-- including his own private home at Angola and later a pardon -- in
exchange for testifying that Wallace and Woodfox were the guard's killers.
State prosecutors in Baton Rouge are appealing that ruling.
King was released in 2001 after appealing to the federal court
system. He has changed his name from Robert "King" Wilkerson, and on
Monday spoke of the survival skills needed when living in solitary
confinement, decade after decade.
"You don't really get used to it, or adapt to it," said King, who has
lived in Austin, Texas, since a friend helped rescue him from his
flooded house after Hurricane Katrina struck. "I convinced myself
that even though I was in prison, I wouldn't allow prison to get in
me. I think the fact that I was innocent helped me. I did a lot of
reading, writing and exercising. I just love to think. . . . These
are things I think kind of helped me in surviving those 31 years, 29
Cruel and unusual?
The "Angola 3" have sued the state in a civil case, arguing that
their three-decade solitary confinement is "cruel and unusual"
punishment in violation of the Constitution.
Trenticosta said he can't find any other case in which an inmate has
been locked in solitary confinement for three decades. "These men are
a threat to no one," Trenticosta said.
Angola prison officials released a statement about Woodfox and
Wallace to NBC News, which aired a report Sunday evening. As they
have for years, prison officials said that the men in solitary
confinement are not abused, rather they have the same meal plan and
other daily items given to all 5,000 inmates there.
"They are allowed to watch TV . . . and both eventually may be
transferred" out of solitary, the statement said of Woodfox and Wallace.
Wallace spoke with NBC via telephone for the report. "The SPCA would
shut this prison down if they had dogs up here like this," Wallace said.
Miller's widow, who was 17 years old at the time her husband was
killed, told NBC Nightly News that at the time of the murder, she
wanted to kill those responsible herself.
But in 2008, the guard's widow says she only wants what is right.
"What I want is justice, and if these two men, if they did not do
this, I think they need to be out," she told NBC.
Trenticosta, however, said that what little physical evidence remains
almost 36 years after Miller's killing has either been lost by the
state -- the lost pile includes fingernail scrapings from Miller's
corpse and a jacket that had some type of untested "microscopic drop
of blood" on it -- or has been rendered useless because the prison
has refused to release 200 inmate fingerprint cards from 1972.
Trenticosta said his legal team has the fingerprints left near
Miller's corpse in 1972, but the prison has never handed over the
names of some 200 inmates housed in the Angola Pine 1 dormitory that
day, let alone the paper cards that had the prisoners' fingerprints
on them as part of their identification records.
Trenticosta said his team is willing to at least try to track down
the inmates who were on the scene in 1972, however tedious and
time-consuming, and collect as many fingerprints as possible for
But for now, the Angola 3's legal defense has only the bloody
fingerprint and four additional ones lifted from the murder scene.
"We have nothing to test them against," Trenticosta said.
. . . . . . .
Gwen Filosa can be reached at gfilosa at timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3304.
Recent Angola 3 Stories:
3/18/08 Baton Rouge Advocate Angola 3 attorney says summer trial
3/18/08 New Orleans Times Picayune Team Seeks to Free the Angola 3
3/18 The AP:
3/18 And TV clips on Fox's Baton Rouge local station and a
re-broadcast of the Night News piece on the Baton Rouge NBC local
news last night:
3/18 Pia Quarterly: Pia Quarterly: Turn the Tide for the Angola 3:
3/17 Huffington Post: Mike Farrell: Ending the Hidden, Savage Routine
of Prison Rape
3/17 Friends of Justice: Alan Bean: Free Herman and Albert: The Angola 3 on NBC
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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