[Pnews] After 4 decades in solitary, Albert Woodfox's release ordered by federal judge

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jun 9 10:55:01 EDT 2015

  Released and Retrial Banned

International Coalition to Free the Angola 3| 221 Idora Ave.| Vallejo| 
CA| 94591

*Oh Happy Day!!!*

We are ecstatic to announce that late this afternoon Judge Brady granted 
the unicorn of habeas rulings--an "unconditional writ" ordering Albert's 
immediate release and barring a retrial. 

He argues that this extraordinary remedy is merited due to the following 
5 factors: "/Mr. Woodfox's age and poor health, his limited ability to 
present a defense at a third trial in light of the unavailability of 
witnesses, this Court's lack of confidence in the State to provide a 
fair third trial, the prejudice done onto Mr. Woodfox by spending over 
forty-years in solitary confinement, and finally the very fact that Mr. 
Woodfox has already been tried twice and would otherwise face his third 
trial for a crime that occurred over forty years ago/."

The State immediately announced their plans to appeal and request an 
emergency stay of the order from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Though we don't yet know if Albert will be released in days or months, 
he has never been closer to freedom.

We will let you know more as soon as we do.

  After 4 decades in solitary, Albert Woodfox's release ordered by
  federal judge


A federal judge in Baton Rouge <http://www.nola.com/baton-rouge/> has 
called for the unconditional release of Albert Woodfox, the only 
remaining imprisoned member of the Angola 3.

For more than 40 years, Woodfox, 68, has been in solitary confinement at 
Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, and other state prisons, for 
reasons related to the 1972 murder of prison guard Brent Miller. Woodfox 
has twice been convicted of Miller's murder, but courts later overturned 
both the convictions.

U.S. District Judge James Brady issued a ruling 
(June 8) afternoon calling for the unconditional release of Woodfox from 
state custody and barring a third trial of the murder charge.

Woodfox has always maintained his innocence, claiming he was implicated 
in the murder of the 23-year-old guard to silence his activism as an 
organizing member of the prison's Black Panther Party chapter.

His attorney Carine Williams said Woodfox would spend Monday night at a 
pretrial detention center in West Feliciana Parish, where he's 
been since February. He was transferred to the parish facility from a 
state prison after a grand jury there handed down Woodfox his third 
the 43-year-old murder case.

Aaron Sadler, spokesman for Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's 
office, said Brady's order "arbitrarily sets aside jury decisions" 
  based on "faulty procedural issues."

"With today's order, the Court would see fit to set free a 
twice-convicted murderer who is awaiting trial again for the brutal 
slaying of Corrections Officer Brent Miller," he said in an emailed 

In his ruling, Brady denied the state's request for a stay. But 
Caldwell's office is seeking an emergency stay from the Fifth Circuit 
U.S. Court of Appeals, Sadler said, "to make sure this murderer stays in 
prison and remains fully accountable for his actions."

Countering Sadler's remarks, a statement from Woodfox's attorneys said 
there was "nothing arbitrary about the federal court's ruling, which is 
carefully considered and relies on firmly established law. ...The 
federal court further recognizes that the State has now had two chances 
to secure a valid conviction against Mr. Woodfox and has been unable to 
do so."

In the 27-page ruling, Brady said it is more customary to issue 
"conditional" release based on the outcome of a retrial. However, he 
gave five factors in Woodfox's case that qualify as "exceptional 
circumstances" to merit barring a third trial.

"The five factors include: Mr. Woodfox's age and poor health, his 
limited ability to present a defense at a third trial in light of the 
unavailability of witnesses, this Court's lack of confidence in the 
State to provide a fair third trial, the prejudice done onto Mr. Woodfox 
by spending over forty-years in solitary confinement, and finally the 
very fact that Mr. Woodfox has already been tried twice and would 
otherwise face his third trial for a crime that occurred over forty 
years ago," he wrote.

Woodfox's lawyers and lawyers for the state will meet Tuesday (June 9) 
with Brady in a closed-chamber setting in Baton Rouge before Brady 
determines how to proceed, whether it be the logistics of Woodfox's 
release or a stay of the release during appeals.

Williams said she and Woodfox's other attorney, George Kendall, 
delivered the news to their client in person, around 7:30 p.m. Monday. 
By then the ruling had been issued hours earlier. Woodfox was expecting 
a visit from the New York-based lawyers to discuss his civil case 
about the conditions of his solitary confinement. He did not expect news 
about his habeas corpus petition.

"He was neither jaded nor excited," initially, Williams said. "I think 
he was more shocked."

While Woodfox grew "guardedly optimistic" about his potential release, 
Williams said, he is "very seasoned, unfortunately, about 
(Louisiana's) courts." He knew the state would seek any means to keep 
him incarcerated.

Williams said Woodfox was curious if they had told his family about the 
ruling. "He mostly wants to talk to his brother."

Among Woodfox's health problems, which Brady referenced in his ruling, 
is a diagnosis of Hepatitis C. The late Herman Wallace, another member 
of the Angola 3 implicated with Woodfox in Miller's murder, also had 
Hepatitis C, Williams said. Wallace was released from prison in October 
2013, at age 71, after his conviction was overturned. He died days later 
untreated liver cancer. A risk factor of Hepatitis C is an increased 
risk of developing liver cancer.

Additionally, Woodfox suffers from diabetes, renal failure and a history 
hyper-tension, Williams said. "He a host of issues that elderly people 
commonly face, but his are in (the) context of (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, Wallace and Robert King were implicated in retaliation 
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 racial segregation, corruption and "systematic 
prison rape," Tory Pegram, the manager of the International Coalition to 
Free the Angola 3 Pegram, has said.

Amnesty International, a major human rights organization, has called for 
Woodfox's release and has decried conditions of his solitary 
confinement, which a November 2014 editorial in The New York Times 
called "barbaric beyond measure 

The slain prison guard's widow, Teenie Rogers, has said she 
believes Woodfox and Wallace were not involved in her husband's death 
<http://blog.amnestyusa.org/tag/angola-3/> and has previously called for 
their release. In 2008, she told The Los Angeles Times 
<http://articles.latimes.com/2008/may/03/nation/na-angola3>, under the 
last name from a previous marriage: "If I were on that jury, I don't 
think I would have convicted them." In 2013, she attended a rally with 
Angola 3 supporters 
the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge demanding the state halt its 
attempts to keep Woodfox incarcerated for her late husband's murder.

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

*Case developments*

Woodfox was first convicted of Miller's murder in 
1974. That conviction was 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, in 1998.

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.

Brady overturned Woodfox's second conviction in 2008, stating Woodfox's 
defense counsel was ineffective. The state appealed 
and the case made its way to the Fifth Circuit.

Once there, the court reversed Brady's ruling and determined that while 
his 1998 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 problems with the 1993 indictment because black grand 
jury forepersons were woefully underrepresented in West Feliciana Parish 
in the previous 13 years.

Brady agreed Woodfox's 1998 retrial was constitutionally mired by racial 
discrimination in the selection of the grand jury foreperson. In May 
2012, he overturned Woodfox's conviction a second time. The case was 
kicked up to the Fifth Circuit after the state appealed 

The Fifth Circuit, in a November 2014 ruling, agreed with Brady that the 
conviction should be overturned.

On Feb. 3, the Fifth Circuit denied the state's request 
<http://www.nola.com/crime/baton-rouge/index.ssf/2015/02/angola_3_member_albert_woodfox.html>for a 
review of its decision by a full panel of judges. On Feb. 6, Woodfox's 
attorneys filed a motion seeking his conditional release 
On Feb. 12, the state's attorneys announced a West Feliciana Parish 
grand jury had indicted Woodfox for a third time 
the decades-old Angola prison murder. Woodfox was then transferred from 
David Wade Correctional Center in Homer to the West Feliciana Parish 
facility -- Angola's jurisdictional parish.

Brady's ruling on Monday calling for Woodfox's release comes about three 
months after Woodfox entered afederal court hearing 
Baton Rouge with shackles and graying hair, wearing a black-and-white 
jumpsuit and dated eyeglasses.

"We are optimistic that Louisiana will comply with the federal court's 
ruling," his attorneys' statement continued. "We look forward to Mr. 
Woodfox going home to his family; getting much needed medical attention; 
and living the remainder of his days in peace."

Meanwhile, Woodfox is still being held in solitary confinement at the 
parish facility in St. Francisville. While he was afforded an hour 
outdoors every day at the state prison in Homer, hour-long breaks have 
dropped to three times a week at the St. Francisville facility.

There's a TV in his cell, which is different for Woodfox, Williams said. 
But instead of prison bars lining a wall, the door to his cell is solid 

It remains unclear, she said, how soon Woodfox could possibly be 
freed if the state fails in its efforts to thwart his release.

*Read the ruling below*

Click here to download this file 
. . . . . .

/Emily Lane <http://connect.nola.com/staff/emilylane/posts.html>is a 
news reporter based in Baton Rouge. Reach her at elane at nola.com 
<mailto:elane at nola.com> or 504-717-7699. Follow her on Twitter 
(@emilymlane <https://twitter.com/emilymlane>) or Facebook. 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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