[Pnews] Angola 3 - Albert Woodfox could possibly be freed after 4 decades in solitary without a retrial

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Apr 2 19:23:20 EDT 2015


  Albert Woodfox could possibly be freed after 4 decades in solitary
  without a retrial


Angola 3 member Albert Woodfox's lawyers have asked for an unconditional 
writ granting his release without going to trial for a third time over 
allegations that he killed prison guard Brent Miller in 1972. Woodfox's 
murder convictions stemming from Miller's murder have twice been 
overturned by the courts. (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
<http://connect.nola.com/staff/emilylane/index.html>
<http://connect.nola.com/staff/emilylane/index.html>By Emily Lane, 
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune 
<http://connect.nola.com/staff/emilylane/posts.html>
*http://www.nola.com/crime/baton-rouge/index.ssf/2015/04/albert_woodfox_angola_3_writ.html*

on April 02, 2015 at 2:42 PM, updated April 02, 2015 at 5:20 PM

Angola 3 member Albert Woodfox could possibly be released from state 
custody after more than 40 years in solitary confinement without having 
to defend himself for a third time in a another trial in the decades-old 
murder of a prison guard.

Woodfox was re-indicted 
<http://www.nola.com/crime/baton-rouge/index.ssf/2015/02/angola_3_member_albert_woodfox_1.html> Feb. 
12 in the 1972 murder of a Louisiana State Penitentiary prison guard 
Brent Miller. It was the third time Woodfox was charged with Miller's 
murder after courts had twice overturned his previous two murder 
convictions.

Now, Woodfox's lawyers argue in federal court that he should be granted 
an "unconditional writ." If U.S. Judge James Brady grants the writ, 
Woodfox could be permanently released and the state barred from 
prosecuting the murder charge against Woodfox for a third time.

Woodfox's lawyers argue since so much time has lapsed since the crime 
took place and nearly half of the witnesses are dead, jurors aren't able 
to properly judge the credibility of the case's evidence, which is 
largely witness-driven.

"It is unfathomable to imagine how an objectively reasonable juror ... 
could possibly evaluate the integrity of the State's case, or the 
credibility of the competing narratives between the State's case and 
Woodfox's case," his attorney George Kendall writes.

Woodfox's lawyers gave four examples of "extraordinary circumstances" 
that should legally qualify him for relief from a retrial: 1) Woodfox 
has been forced to subsist "decades of hardship and deprivation" in 
solitary confinement; 2) His old age and medical problems mean he might 
not survive the retrial process; 3) The state has a history of 
"troubling" conduct in the case, including prosecutorial misconduct 
during the first trial and racial discrimination leading up to the 
second trial; and 4) evidence of actual innocence.

Assistant Attorney General Kurt Wall, who is handling the case for 
Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's office, said Thursday (April 
2) if the writ is granted, the state would push back by filing an appeal 
or through other legal avenues. Granting an unconditional writ to a 
defendant who has an a murder indictment pending, Wall said, would be 
unprecedented.

"We would explore every possible avenue to prohibit (Woodfox) from being 
released," Wall said.

The state has until April 10 to file a response to Woodfox's petition 
for an unconditional writ, which was filed Monday (March 30).

Woodfox has always maintained his innocence in the murder of the 
23-year-old guard, Brent Miller. His designation as a member of the 
Angola 3 stems from what the group's supporters believe are wrongful 
convictions for prison murders in which Woodfox and two other prisoners 
were implicated for the purpose of silencing their activism. The 
International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 believes the men 
essentially became political prisoners for organizing an official Black 
Panther Party chapter inside the prison, which led hunger strikes and 
other demonstrations opposing inhumane prison conditions. Those 
conditions, in the early 1970s, included continued segregation, 
corruption and systematic prison rape.

An affidavit stemming from Woodfox's recent indictment says the murder 
occurred as Miller was talking with fellow inmate Hezekiah Brown on 
Brown's bed when Woodfox and two others pounced on him, leaving Miller 
with 32 stab wounds.

Woofox's lawyers used Brown's death as an example of witness evidence 
jurors would benefit from observing testify in person to properly judge 
his credibility.

Brown, the state's key witness, died before the second trial in 1998. 
Brown testified at the first trial to having seen Woodfox and fellow 
Angola 3 member, the late Herman Wallace, committing the murder and 
running from the scene. Although Brown said at the first trial that 
he was not promised favors in exchange for providing an eye-witness 
account, testimony of Warden C. Murray Henderson during the second trial 
indicates Brown was offered help obtaining a pardon before he testified 
at the first trial. The petition also says he was threatened with 
solitary confinement should he refuse to testify.

Brown, imprisoned at Angola on multiple rape charges, was eventually 
pardoned in 1986 and died in 1996.

Old testimony from dead witnesses that is deemed admissible can be read 
aloud in court and cross-examined during a new trial. But Woodfox's 
lawyers cited case law that acknowledged how the jury's opportunity to 
observe "facial expresses, attitudes, tone of voice, eye contact, 
posture and body movements" of witnesses falls in stark contrast to 
"merely looking at the cold pages of an appellate record."

The petition also notes a lack of physical evidence tying Woodfox to the 
crime. A bloody fingerprint taken from the scene did not match Woodfox 
or the other suspects implicated by the state, including Wallace, it says.

Moreover, Louisiana law doesn't permit its admittance in court, but 
Woodfox "has passed a polygraph test," the petition says.


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