[Ppnews] Louisiana Attorney General Says Angola 3 “Have Never Been Held in Solitary Confinement”

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Mar 21 16:02:52 EDT 2013


  *Louisiana Attorney General Says Angola 3 “Have Never Been Held in 
Solitary Confinement” 
<http://solitarywatch.com/2013/03/21/louisiana-attorney-general-says-angola-3-have-never-been-held-in-solitary-confinement/>*

http://solitarywatch.com/2013/03/21/louisiana-attorney-general-says-angola-3-have-never-been-held-in-solitary-confinement/#more-8218
Mar 21st, 2013 @ 02:46 pm › James Ridgeway and Jean Casella

<http://solitarywatch.com/2013/03/21/louisiana-attorney-general-says-angola-3-have-never-been-held-in-solitary-confinement/#respond> 


James “Buddy” Caldwell, attorney general of the state of Louisiana, has 
released a statement saying unequivocally that Herman Wallace and Albert 
Woodfox, the two still-imprisoned members of the Angola 3, “have never 
been held in solitary confinement while in the Louisiana penal system.”

In fact, Wallace, now 71, and Woodfox, 66, have been in solitary for 
nearly 41 years 
<http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/04/angola-prison-3-herman-wallace-albert-woodfox-40-years-solitary-confinement>, quite 
possibly longer than any other human beings on the planet. They were 
placed in solitary following the 1972 killing of a young corrections 
officer at Angola, and except for a few brief periods, they have 
remained in isolation ever since.

The statement from Caldwell follows on the heels of a ruling by a 
federal District Court judge in New Orleans, overturning Albert 
Woodfox’s conviction for the third time–in this instance, on the 
grounds that there had been racial bias in the selection of grand jury 
forepersons in Louisiana at the time of his indictment. Subsequently, 
Amnesty International 
<http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/press-releases/state-of-louisiana-must-not-appeal-federal-ruling-overturning-conviction-in-angola-3-case>, 
along with other activists, mounted a campaign urging the state of 
Louisiana not to appeal the federal court’s ruling. In the absence of an 
appeal, Woodfox would have to be given a new trial or released.

Caldwell’s statement–which was rather mysteriously sent out to an email 
list that included numerous prisoners’ rights advocates who have 
supported the Angola 3–begins: “Thank you for your interest in the 
ambush, savage attack and brutal murder of Officer Brent Miller at 
Louisiana State Penitentiary (LSP) on April 17, 1972. Albert Woodfox and 
Herman Wallace committed this murder, stabbing and slicing Miller over 
35 times.”

Caldwell clearly states that he has every intention of appealing the 
District Court’s decision to the notoriously conservative Fifth Circuit: 
“We feel confident that we will again prevail at the Fifth Circuit Court 
of Appeals. However, if we do not, we are fully prepared and willing to 
retry this murderer again.” Caldwell asserts that the evidence against 
Woodfox is ”overpowering”: “There are no flaws in our evidence and this 
case is very strong.”

These statements belie the fact that much of the evidence that led to 
Wallace and Woodfox’s conviction has since been called into question. In 
particular, the primary eyewitness was shown to have been bribed by 
prison officials into making statements against the two men. (For more 
details on the case, see our earlier reporting in /Mother Jones/, here 
<http://www.motherjones.com/special-reports/2009/03/angola-3-36-years-solitude>, 
here <http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2009/10/angola-3-appeal-denied>, 
here 
<http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2009/12/herman-wallace-angola-3-solitary-confinement>, 
and here 
<http://solitarywatch.com/2013/03/21/louisiana-attorney-general-says-angola-3-have-never-been-held-in-solitary-confinement/here,>.) 
The two men believe that they were targeted for the murder, and have 
been held in solitary for four decades, because of their status as Black 
Panthers and their efforts to organize against prison conditions. (The 
third member of the Angola 3, Robert King, convicted of a separate 
prison murder, was released after 29 years in solitary when his 
conviction was overturned in 2001).

But Caldwell’s most controversial assertion is that Wallace and 
Woodfox’s conditions of confinement over the past 40 years do not 
qualify as solitary confinement:

    Contrary to popular lore, Woodfox and Wallace have never been held
    in solitary confinement while in the Louisiana penal system. They
    have been held in protective cell units known as CCR. These units
    were designed to protect inmates as well as correctional officers.
    They have always been able to communicate freely with other inmates
    and prison staff as frequently as they want. They have televisions
    on the tiers which they watch through their cell doors. In their
    cells they can have radios and headsets, reading and writing
    materials, stamps, newspapers, magazines and books. They also can
    shop at the canteen store a couple of times per week where they can
    purchase grocery and personal hygiene items which they keep in their
    cells.

    These convicted murderers have an hour outside of their cells each
    day where they can exercise in the hall, talk on the phone, shower,
    and visit with the other 10 to 14 inmates on the tier. At least
    three times per week they can go outside on the yard and exercise
    and enjoy the sun if they want. This is all in addition to the
    couple of days set aside for visitations each week.

    These inmates are frequently visited by spiritual advisors, medical
    personnel and social workers. They have had frequent and extensive
    contact with numerous individuals from all over the world, by
    telephone, mail, and face-to-face personal visits. They even now
    have email capability. Contrary to numerous reports, this is not
    solitary confinement.

Caldwell’s description does not, in fact, refute the fact that the two 
men are held for 23 hours a day in closed cells that measure 
approximately 6 x 9 feet–smaller than the average parking space. CCR, or 
Closed Cell Restricted, is the Louisiana prison system’s euphemism of 
choice for solitary confinement.

In addition to challenging their convictions, Wallace and Woodfox have 
filed a civil suit 
<http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2009/06/life-permanent-lockdown>in 
federal court, arguing that their 40 years in solitary confinement 
violate the U.S. Constitution. Their lawyers argue that both have 
endured physical injury and “severe mental anguish and other 
psychological damage” from living most of their adult lives in lockdown. 
According to medical reports submitted to the court, the men suffer from 
arthritis, hypertension, and kidney failure, as well as memory 
impairment, insomnia, claustrophobia, anxiety, and depression. Even the 
psychologist brought in by the state confirmed these findings.

In his statement, Caldwell warns that if they win their civil suit, 
“these convicted murderers…could possibly receive money and a change in 
their housing assignments.” Any move out of solitary has been firmly 
opposed by the warden of Angola, Burl Cain. In a 2008 deposition, 
attorneys for Woodfox asked Cain, “Let’s just for the sake of argument 
assume, if you can, that he is not guilty of the murder of Brent 
Miller.” Cain responded, “Okay, I would still keep him in CCR…I still 
know that he is still trying to practice Black Pantherism, and I still 
would not want him walking around my prison because he would organize 
the young new inmates. I would have me all kind of problems, more than I 
could stand, and I would have the blacks chasing after them.”

Caldwell himself has even more vociferously opposed releasing the men 
from solitary. An ambitious Democrat-turned-Republican known for his 
Elvis impersonations, Caldwell took office in 2007 and was reelected in 
2011. He has characterized the Angola 3 as political radicals and called 
Woodfox “the most dangerous person on the planet.” 
<http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=96255685>

In the fall of 2008, after Woodfox’s conviction was overturned for the 
second time, a federal court judge ordered him released on bail pending 
the state’s appeal. Caldwell opposed the release “with every fiber of my 
being.” Woodfox planned to stay with his niece, but his lawyers 
uncovered evidence that the state had emailed the neighborhood 
association of the gated community where she lived to say that a 
murderer would be moving in next door. Caldwell soon convinced the Fifth 
Circuit Court of Appeals to revoke Woodfox’s bail. He also brought 
Woodfox’s habeas case to the full Fifth Circuit, which reversed the 
lower court ruling and reinstated his conviction.

Now that a federal judge has ruled, for the third time, that Woodfox did 
not receive a fair trial, Caldwell apparently feels the need to 
reiterate his position. “Let me be clear,” his statement 
concludes. ”Woodfox and Wallace are GUILTY and have NEVER been held in 
solitary confinement” (emphasis in the original).

-- 
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