[Pnews] Albert Woodfox wants Supreme Court to weigh in on his request to be freed and block a third trial
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Dec 2 10:41:55 EST 2015
Woodfox wants U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on his request to be
freed and block a third trial in 1972 killing
Inmate seeks to block third trial in guard’s 1972 death
by maya lau| mlau at theadvocate.com <mailto:mlau%40theadvocate.com?subject=>
Dec. 1, 2015; 5:39 p.m.
Albert Woodfox, the high-profile accused murderer from New Orleans who’s
fueled a national debate over solitary confinement, is taking his case
to the U.S. Supreme Court.
One of Woodfox’s attorneys, George Kendall, said Tuesday he plans to
file a request to the nation’s high court to hear the case, nearly a
month after a federal appeals court ruled
the inmate can be tried a third time in the slaying of a prison guard.
Woodfox’s request will join the 10,000 petitions the Supreme Court
receives each year, some 80 of which are heard.
Also Tuesday, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals filed the necessary
paperwork to finalize its Nov. 9 decision that overturned a lower court
judge’s sweeping ruling in June
sought to free Woodfox and bar him from being retried.
Woodfox, 68, was twice convicted in the 1972 stabbing death of Brent
Miller, a guard at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Both
convictions, in 1973 and 1998, were thrown out, first due to Woodfox’s
ineffective counsel and the next time, because of racial disparities in
the grand jury.
Woodfox has become a lightning rod in the controversy surrounding
solitary confinement, a practice opponents say is a form of
unconstitutional imprisonment generally defined as being held alone in a
cell for at least 23 hours a day. Having served four decades, Woodfox is
believed to be the longest-jailed inmate in solitary in the U.S.
State officials have previously challenged
the description of Woodfox’s imprisonment as solitary confinement,
citing his access to television and ability to converse with other
inmates despite only being allowed to leave his cell one hour a day.
Aaron Sadler, a spokesman for State Attorney General James “Buddy”
Caldwell, who is prosecuting Woodfox, said Tuesday he can’t discuss the
issue of solitary confinement because it’s the subject of ongoing
In Woodfox’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, attorneys are expected
to argue that U.S. Middle District Court Judge James J. Brady had
appropriate authority when he ruled in June that the inmate’s situation
was so exceptional that a fair trial would be impossible.
The unusual elements to Woodfox’s case include his advanced age,
faltering health, and the fact that many of the witnesses to the killing
for which he’s accused are dead, Brady found.
“The American trial assumes that a certain number of critical witnesses
are going to show up at the courthouse, raise their right hands, testify
and be subject to cross examination. There’s no dispute anymore. That
can’t happen in this case,” Kendall said.
“The central, important role the jury plays is to look at the witnesses
... and say, ‘Who do we believe and who do we not believe?’ ” he said,
adding that critical testimony should not be delivered by actors reading
a script in court.
Sadler said the state agrees with the 5th Circuit’s ruling last month,
which found the problem of dead witnesses would be best addressed at
retrial by a state court.
“This case,” wrote 5th Circuit Judge Carolyn King in the 2-1 decision
with Judge Priscilla Owen, “does not present a constitutional defect
that cannot be cured at retrial.”
Fifth Circuit Judge James L. Dennis dissented, aligning himself with Brady.
Woodfox is the last remaining member of the “Angola 3,” a group so named
for the members’ long terms in what they’ve argued is solitary confinement.
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