[Pnews] Albert Woodfox - case of last imprisoned member of Angola 3 again headed to 5th Circuit

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jan 7 10:53:56 EST 2014

  Murder case of last imprisoned member of Angola 3 again headed to 5th

<http://connect.nola.com/user/lmcgaughy/index.html>By Lauren McGaughy, 
NOLA.com | The Times Picayune 

on January 06, 2014 at 9:59 PM, updated January 07, 2014 at 4:44 AM


For the second time in three years, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals 
will decide whether Angola 
<http://topics.nola.com/tag/angola/index.html> 3 member Albert Woodfox 
deserves another retrial for his now decades-old murder conviction of 
prison guard Brent Miller.

Woodfox's case spans four decades and three courts, during which time he 
has been reconvicted once and has had the conviction overturned three 
times, twice by the same judge in the past few years. But while the 
case's history is complex, the legal arguments to be heard by the three 
New Orleans-area appellate judges on Tuesday are fairly narrow.

Woodfox's attorneys, hailing from as near as St. Charles Avenue in New 
Orleans and as far away as Los Angeles, will argue that Woodfox did not 
receive a fair trial the second time around because the process by which 
Woodfox was charged by the grand jury was discriminatory, in that the 
Grand Jury foreperson did not represent the racial makeup of the parish 
in question, in this case West Feliciana. Woodfox is black. The grand 
jury foreperson was white. Woodfox's attorneys have presented data that 
they argue shows a pattern of discriminatory grand jury foreperson 
selection in West Feliciana over several years.

The state will argue Woodfox has been twice convicted of Miller's murder 
-- in 1974 and 1998 -- adding the state court heard Woodfox's 
discrimination claim in his second trial and decided it had no merit.

Woodfox and fellow Angola inmate Herman Wallace were convicted in 
separate trials by all-white juries of the 1972 brutal stabbing of 
Miller, a young and popular guard at the state penitentiary also known 
as Angola.

The incident occurred during a particularly tumultuous time in the 
prison's history, when rape and violence were rampant and relations 
between the all-white cadre of guards and the inmates they oversaw were 

After their convictions, Woodfox and Wallace continued to maintain their 
innocence and stated their implication in the murder was in retribution 
for starting the prison's first Black Panther chapter. The two soon 
found themselves in permanent lockdown, spending at least 23 hours a day 
in solitary confinement for more than four decades.

A third inmate, Robert Hillary King (formerly Wilkerson), was also key 
in forming the chapter. Soon after he came to Angola, he was convicted 
of murdering a fellow inmate and also incarcerated in solitary 
confinement, defined as a 6' x 9' single-occupancy cell with extremely 
limited, sometimes no, access to anyone but prison staff.

Lost for years in the system, the three inmates were unknown to the 
wider world until the early 1990s, when former Black Panther Malik Rahim 
publicized how long Woodfox, Wallace and King had been held in solitary 
confinement. They soon became known as the Angola 3.

While King was offered a plea deal and released in 2001 after 29 years 
in solitary, Wallace spent nearly 42 years in lockdown before a district 
judge overturned his sentence and ordered his release 
in October. He was reindicted the next day, but died three days later 
of advanced liver cancer.

Woodfox is the only member of the Angola 3 still behind bars. He has 
been kept in solitary, what the state calls "closed-cell restriction" 
for 42 years, a practice criticized by Amnesty International 
and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, who called it 
under international human rights law.

Woodfox's 1974 murder conviction was first overturned in 1992 by a state 
court due to "systemtic discrimination." He was then reindicted in 1993 
by a new grand jury and reconvicted five years later.

But District Court Judge James J. Brady overturned this second 
conviction in 2008, stating Woodfox's defense counsel was ineffective. 
The state appealed 
and the case made its way for the first time to the 5th Circuit.

Once there, the court reversed Brady's ruling and determined that while 
his trial "was not perfect," Woodfox couldn't prove there would have 
been a different outcome with different counsel.

Woodfox's attorneys then focused in on the discrimination issue, arguing 
there were also issues with the 1993 indictment because black grand jury 
foreman were woefully underrepresented in West Feliciana Parish in the 
previous 13 years.

Brady again agreed, overturning Woodfox's conviction a second time in 
May 2012. The case was kicked up to the 5th Circuit after the state 
While the outcome for Woodfox's counsel in previous years has not been 
especially successful, the team remained hopeful ahead of Tuesday's hearing.

"The case (has) a tremendous, extraordinary history to it and one that 
Albert has always maintained his innocence," said George Kendall, a 
member of Woodfox's legal team. "The law is very solidly in our corner."

Oral arguments will be heard at 9 a.m. in Room 209 of the John Minor 
Wisdom United States Court of Appeals Building at 600 Camp Street.

Each side will be limited to 20 minutes for oral argument. Read the 
appellate brief filed by the state of Louisiana by clicking here 
Read the appellate brief for Albert Woodfox by clicking here 

*. . . . . . .*

/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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