[Pnews] Angola 3 member Albert Woodfox indicted for 3rd time in 1972 murder of prison guard

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Feb 12 19:14:41 EST 2015


*Angola 3 member Albert Woodfox indicted for 3rd time in 1972 murder of 
prison guard*

February 12, 2015 at 6:02 PM
*http://www.nola.com/crime/baton-rouge/index.ssf/2015/02/angola_3_member_albert_woodfox_1.html*

Albert Woodfox has been in solitary confinement for more than 40 years 
for the murder of a prison guard he maintains he did not commit. A 
federal appeals court on Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014, upheld a lower court's 
ruling that overturned Woodfox's conviction. A grand jury re-indicted 
him on the murder

Today.

Albert Woodfox, the only member of the Angola 3 still behind bars, was 
indicted Thursday for the third time in the murder of a Louisiana State 
Penitentiary prison guard that occurred at the prison more than four 
decades ago.

Woodfox has been held in solitary confinement for more than 40 years as 
a result of his former convictions in the 1972 slaying of 23-year-old 
guard, Brent Miller. Now 67, Woodfox continues to maintain his innocence 
in the fatal stabbing and has a wide-reaching network of supporters 
advocating for his release. The indictment comes after a federal appeals 
court, in a ruling issued Nov. 20, agreed with a lower court that his 
conviction for Miller's murder should be vacated.

Woodfox's legal team earlier this week sought his release from prison on 
bail in anticipation that the state would try to re-indict him or appeal 
to the court's latest decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Louisiana 
Attorney Buddy Caldwell announced in a press release Thursday a grand 
jury from West Feliciana Parish, where the prison at Angola is located, 
re-indicted Woodfox on the murder charge earlier that day.

"The facts of the case remain solid," Caldwell said in the statement. 
"Despite Woodfox's last-ditch efforts to obtain a 'get out of jail free' 
pass on grand jury selection issues, the proof of his guilt in 
committing the murder is undeniable."

A three-judge panel from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, in its 
November ruling, unanimously upheld a lower court's ruling that 
overturned Woodfox's conviction. The court agreed with U.S. District 
Judge James Brady that Woodfox's 1998 retrial was constitutionally mired 
by discrimination in the selection of the grand jury foreperson.

Amnesty International, a major human rights organization, has called for 
Woodfox's release and has decried conditions of his solitary 
confinement, which a November editorial in The New York Times called 
"barbaric beyond measure." Amnesty International started a petition this 
week asking Gov. Bobby Jindal not to oppose bail for Woodfox if it's 
granted.

Steven W. Hawkins, the executive director of Amnesty International USA, 
said in a statement that Caldwell is "hell-bent" on keeping Woodfox 
behind bars.

"He should stop pursuing a campaign of vengeance by trying to re-indict 
a man who has already spent more than four decades in cruel confinement, 
after a legal process tainted with flaws," the statement says.

Woodfox's attorney George Kendall released the following statement in 
response to the indictment:

"We are extremely disappointed in today's indictment of Albert Woodfox 
who has maintained his innocence since he was charged 42 years ago. This 
case has already spanned four decades and cost Louisiana millions of 
dollars, while Mr. Woodfox has been unjustly held in solitary confinement."

Woodfox's 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," Pegram 
has said.

Taking the 42-year-old case to trial presents obvious challenges to all 
parties, but Pegram said Woodfox's legal team is "not at all scared" of 
arguing the case in court and feels confident he will prevail.

There was no physical evidence linking Woodfox to the murder, and all of 
the witnesses either later recanted or were promised favors such as 
pardons. Many of the witnesses, too, are dead. A bloody fingerprint 
taken from the crime scene did not match Woodfox or his co-defendants, 
she said. That DNA evidence, which could potentially incriminate another 
suspect, has sine been lost.

"If the state really wants to go down this road, they will be reminded 
there is no physical evidence that links him to the crime, and witnesses 
have all been impeached or recanted," Pegram said. "We are happy to say 
he will have the opportunity to demonstrate to the world that (Woodfox) 
did not commit this crime."

Caldwell noted in his statement two juries have already convicted 
Woodfox in the murder, and now three grand juries have indicted him.

The slain prison guard's widow, Teenie Rogers, attended a rally in 
October 2013 with Angola 3 supporters demanding the state halt its 
attempts to keep Woodfox incarcerated for her late husband's murder. She 
has said she believes Woodfox and his codefendant, the late Herman 
Wallace, were not involved in her husband's death and has previously 
called for their release. In 2008, she told The Los Angeles Times, under 
the last name from a previous marriage: "If I were on that jury, I don't 
think I would have convicted them."

Caldwell's release also levied a number criminal allegations against 
Woodfox unrelated to Miller's murder, which a Feb. 10 affidavit says 
occurred in the late 1960s in New Orleans.

"Prior to arriving at Angola, Albert Woodfox began committing a series 
of crimes with escalated from minor offenses to violent crimes, 
including seven armed robberies and five aggravated rapes," the attorney 
general's statement says.

The release also says he faced five life sentences for the rape charges, 
however an attached affidavit suggests Woodfox was never convicted on 
any rape charges.

Moreover, in a 2008 court order from Judge Brady, the judge says, "given 
how long ago these arrests occurred as well as the fact that Mr. Woodfox 
was never convicted of these crimes... those allegations were irrelevant 
to Woodfox's petition for release."

The affidavit paints a similar picture of Woodfox as a danger to the 
public that the state used in 2008 to prevent Woodfox from being granted 
bail while the appeals process played out. "We will continue to fight to 
ensure that this dangerous man is held fully accountable for his 
actions," Caldwell said Thursday.

Hawkins' statement criticized Caldwell's recent accusations against 
Woodfox regarding the rapes.

"(Caldwell's) public accusations that Albert is a 'serial rapist' not 
only cross ethical boundaries, but inflame the public against a man who 
has suffered unspeakable cruelty at the hands of the Louisiana 
authorities," Hawkins said.

Wallace, a fellow Angola 3 member, was released in October of 2013, two 
days before his death from complications of liver cancer.

Robert King, the third member of the Angola 3 who was convicted of 
killing a fellow inmate, was exonerated and released from prison in 2001 
after 29 years in solitary. King remains active in the campaign to 
release Woodfox from prison and end the practice of solitary confinement.

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

But District Judge 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 Fifth Circuit Court 
of Appeals.

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 Fifth Circuit after the state 
appealed. The Fifth Circuit agreed, in the Nov. 20 ruling, that 
conviction should be overturned. The same court then denied, in a Feb. 3 
ruling, the state's request for a review of its decision by the Fifth 
Circuit's full panel of judges.

Woodfox, of New Orleans, was originally sentenced to prison at Angola on 
charges of armed robbery. That sentence would have expired decades ago, 
coalition manager Tory Pegram said. Woodfox was at Angola only a few 
years before he was implicated, along with Wallace, in Miller's murder. 
He's currently housed at David Wade Correctional Center in Homer.

Click here to download this file (PDF)

. . . . . .

Emily Lane is a news reporter based in Baton Rouge. Reach her at 
elane at nola.com or 504-717-7699. Follow her on Twitter (@emilymlane) or 
Facebook.

-- 
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