[Ppnews] Angola 3 - Judge Rules Albert Woodfox Must be Free

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Nov 25 21:37:29 EST 2008


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                              CONTACT: Emma Mackinnon
Tuesday, November 25, 
202.302.6920 / <mailto:emma at fenton.com>emma at fenton.com

  "Angola 3" Member to Be
Released On Bail After 37 Years

Conviction Overturned, Judge Rules Albert Woodfox 
Must be Free During Appeals or Re-trial

Lawyers: Ruling Brings Hope for Remaining 
Prisoner, Also Spent 36 Years in Solitary for Guard's Murder

Albert Woodfox, who has spent 37 years in prison 
at Angola Penitentiary, must be released on bail, 
according to a ruling issued today by United 
States District Judge James Brady.  On September 
25th, Judge Brady overturned Woodfox's conviction 
for the 1972 murder of prison guard Brent Miller. 
Though the State has announced its intention to 
appeal that decision, until such an appeal is 
successful, according to today's ruling, there is 
no conviction on which to hold Woodfox.

In his decision, Judge Brady wrote:
"[Woodfox] is a frail, sickly, middle aged man 
who has had an exemplary conduct record for over 
the last twenty years. At the hearing before this 
Court on October 14, 2008, testimony was adduced 
that if released Mr. Woodfox would live with his 
niece and her family in a gated subdivision in 
Slidell, Louisiana. Mr. Woodfox has withdrawn 
that request because of fear of harm to his niece 
and her family by members... This change was 
brought about by counsel representing the State 
of Louisiana contacting the subdivision home 
owners association and providing them with 
information regarding Mr. Woodfox. The Court is 
not totally privy to what information was given 
to the association but from the documents filed 
it is apparent that the association was not told 
Mr. Woodfox is frail, sickly, and has had a clean 
conduct record for more than twenty years
Court GRANTS Mr. Woodfox's motion for release pending the State's appeal."

Herman Wallace, who was also convicted in the 
murder, remains in prison at Angola.  He has an 
appeal pending with the Supreme Court of 
Louisiana, which is similar in content to 
Woodfox's successful appeal.  The two men were 
wrongly convicted based largely on the testimony 
of a fellow prisoner, Hezekiah Brown, a serial 
rapist who was promised and received a pardon in 
exchange for his testimony against them. Brown 
was the sole professed eyewitness to the murder, 
and none of the physical evidence put Herman or Albert at the crime scene.

Woodfox's legal team is now working with the 
court to reach an agreement on a suitable release 
location and plan for Woodfox; once they agree to 
a plan, Woodfox will be able to leave Angola. The 
lawyers anticipate the process to take several more days.

Woodfox and Wallace were each held in solitary 
confinement from the time of the murder until 
last March, after a federal court concluded that 
their suit alleging that such confinement for 
three decades constitutes cruel and unusual 
punishment could go forward.  A third man, Robert 
King Wilkerson, was held in solitary at Angola at 
the same time for a different crime; he was 
released in 2001 after showing that he had been 
wrongfully convicted.  The three are known as the 
"Angola 3."  All black men, they had been 
organizing nonviolently for an end to 
gang-enforced sex slavery and for better 
conditions inside the prison. Angola at the time 
was known as the "bloodiest prison in the US."

"This is a major victory in a case where justice 
is long overdue. Albert went into Angola in his 
twenties, and he's walking out in his 60s.  There 
is no conviction against him now, and the state 
should not take another day of his life," said Chris Aberle, Woodfox's lawyer.

"In 37 years, Albert never gave up hope that 
someday he would walk out the gates of 
Angola.  We continue to hope that Herman will 
join him soon. Neither of these men should have 
spent a day in Angola for this crime," said Nick 
Trenticosta, also a lawyer in the case.

The case has attracted attention on the state and 
national level.  Last spring, US House Judiciary 
Committee Chair John Conyers (D-MI) visited the 
men, along with Louisiana House Judiciary 
Committee Chair Cedric Richmond (D-101). Richmond 
has announced his intention to hold hearings on 
the case, and Conyers continues to monitor developments.

The state had sought a stay of Judge Brady's 
ruling ordering a new trial until the appeal 
process plays out.  Judge Brady granted that 
request. The State must now either win its 
appeals, or will need to either release or retry 
Woodfox within 120 days of the end of its appeals.

Judge Brady held an initial bail hearing on 
October 14th; he postponed issuing a decision at 
that time to allow for additional depositions to 
be taken from Angola Warden Burl Cain and from a 
doctor who had examined Woodfox and his medical 
records.  The State has now conducted both of those depositions.

For a copy of the judgment, to speak with the 
lawyers, or for any additional information on the 
case, please contact Emma Mackinnon, 
<mailto:emma at fenton.com>emma at fenton.com or 202 302 6920.

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