[Pnews] Judge to rule on strip, cavity searches of Angola 3 member Albert Woodfox

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Nov 14 10:24:51 EST 2013

  Judge to rule on strip, cavity searches of Angola 3 member Albert Woodfox

By Lauren McGaughy, NOLA.com | The Times Picayune 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter <https://twitter.com/lmcgaughy>
on November 13, 2013 at 7:49 PM, updated November 13, 2013 at 8:27 PM



Albert Woodfox, the last Angola 
<http://topics.nola.com/tag/angola/index.html> 3 member behind bars, 
took the stand in federal court Wednesday to argue that the daily strip 
and cavity searches he undergoes in prison violate a previous court 
agreement entered into 35 years ago.

Jerry Goodwin, the warden at David Wade Correctional Center, where 
Woodfox is imprisoned, testified to U.S. District Court Judge James J. 
Brady that it is the prison's policy to perform "visual body cavity 
searches" every time a maximum security inmate enters or leaves his tier.

A "visual body cavity search" involves the removal of all clothing, 
inspection of that clothing by guards and examination of the inmates 
mouth, genitals, buttocks and soles for contraband or weapons.

Woodfox, who is serving time for the 1972 murder of a prison guard, and 
his counsel say the searches violate a 1978 consent decree entered into 
by the former Angola inmate and then-U.S. District Court Judge Daniel W. 
LeBlanc. The decree ruled these searches violated the rights of inmates 
and must be curtailed and, in many cases, eliminated.

They also say the searches were not a policy carried out at David Wade 
until March of this year, when Judge LeBlanc died.

During testimony Wednesday, Goodwin, the warden, said the searches are 
undertaken "for public safety, staff safety and offender safety" and are 
meant primarily to uncover contraband or weapons hidden on the inmate's 

Sheridan England, a member of Woodfox's legal team, asked Goodwin why 
his client should undergo the searches, since he remains shackled and 
under constant watch by at least two guards during his time off the tier.

Goodwin replied, saying inmates aren't continuously watched while they 
are in their cells. Without these searches, inmates could smuggle 
contraband, or even weapons, from their cells with the intent to break 
prison rules or even do harm.

"It don't take but a minute or a second or a jiffy for something to 
happen," Goodwin said.
  "(Inmates are) never under constant supervision."

Woodfox is housed on the "closed-cell restriction" tier at the Homer 
prison, where he is kept in a 6' x 9' cell for at least 23 hours a day. 
Goodwin confirmed during testimony that the 71-year-old inmate hasn't 
received a disciplinary report since he was transferred to David Wade 
more than three years ago, on Nov. 1, 2010.

Testimony lasted all day Wednesday. In addition to Woodfox and Goodwin, 
David Wade guard Matthew Elmore and Pat Keohane, an expert for the 
state, also testified. At the end of the day, Judge Brady requested 
counsel file briefs detailing what would be the effects of adopting the 
1978 consent decree approved under Judge LeBlanc.

Counsel for the plaintiff was given 30 days to complete the first brief, 
after which counsel for the defense was given 30 days to draft a 
response. Judge Brady will then issue a ruling.

England, speaking after the hearing wrapped, said he was confident the 
judge would rule in his client's favor: "I'm happy Mr. Woodfox got an 
opportunity to talk about the deplorable strip searches he's made to 
undergo everyday. We're confident the court will find they violate the 

Woodfox's plea for the court to halt the strip and cavity searches is 
part of a much larger civil case filed against the state in 2000.

In that suit, Woodfox, along with fellow Angola 3 members Robert King 
(formerly Wilkerson) and Herman Wallace, said the decades spent in 
solitary confinement, or lockdown, violates the 8th Amendment banning 
cruel and unusual punishment.

They requested an injunction from the court to remove them from CCR and 
place them back in the general prison population, and also requested 
they be paid punitive damages as well as attorney's and court fees.

At the time of the 2000 filing, all three were being held at the State 
Penitentiary also known as Angola, or "The Farm." The three met there in 
the early 1970s while serving sentences for robbery, and were 
instrumental in forming the prison's first Black Panther chapter.

But soon after their arrival, Woodfox and Wallace were implicated in the 
brutal stabbing murder of Angola guard Brent Miller. King, who arrived 
after the murder but became active in the Black Panther movement in the 
prison, was later charged with the murder of a fellow inmate.

All three were placed in solitary confinement. They maintained their 
innocence in the murders, saying prison officials sought to hide them 
away due to their involvement with the Black Panthers.

King remained in solitary for 29 years, until 2001 when he was released 
after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit murder. Wallace remained 
under lockdown until Oct. 1 of this year, when he was released 
on order from U.S. District Court Judge Brian A. Jackson.

He died four days later 
from advanced liver cancer. Woodfox is the only remaining Angola 3 
member behind bars and has been living in lockdown for nearly 42 years. 
Soon after Wallace's death, the United Nations special investigators on 
torture said the extended lockdown 
experienced by the Angola 3 "clearly amounts to torture and it should be 
lifted immediately."

The trial for the suit filed in 2000 is set to begin June 2, 2013 in the 
Middle District Court in Baton Rouge.

*. . . . . . .*

/Lauren McGaughy <http://connect.nola.com/user/lmcgaughy/posts.html> is 
a state politics reporter based in Baton Rouge 
<http://www.nola.com/baton-rouge/>. She can be reached at 
lmcgaughy at nola.com or on Twitter at @lmcgaughy 

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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