[Pnews] Angola 3 prisoner Albert Woodfox to remain incarcerated during appeal

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jun 12 14:14:10 EDT 2015


  ‘Angola 3’ prisoner Albert Woodfox to remain incarcerated during appeal

*http://theadvocate.com/news/12624813-123/killed-prison-guards-family-argues*

BY STEVE HARDY and MAYA 
LAU<mailto:%20shardy at theadvocate.com%20mlau at theadvocate.com>
June 12, 2015

<http://theadvocate.com/news/12624813-123/killed-prison-guards-family-argues#comments> 


St. Francisville -- “Angola 3” inmate Albert Woodfox will not be 
released from prison while a federal appeals court considers whether he 
can be retried, that court ruled Friday afternoon.

A three-judge panel with the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court Appeals ordered 
Woodfox to remain incarcerated while they consider a district court 
judge’s ruling that barred him from being retried in the 1972 murder of 
a prison guard.

Earlier this week, U.S. District Court Judge James Brady, who had 
overturned Woodfox’s 1998 conviction in the murder of Angola guard Brent 
Miller, ordered the inmate released and prohibited the state from 
retrying him for the crime. The next day, the Fifth Circuit intervened 
and temporarily blocked the release of Woodfox, a state prisoner who has 
risen to some national renown as the prisoner serving the longest time 
in solitary confinement in the United States.

The final ruling, released not long before a 1 p.m. deadline the court 
had set for itself, sets the stage for the appellate judges to consider 
Brady’s decision in full. That moves the focus to Brady’s determination 
that Woodfox could not be fairly retried for a third time in Miller’s 
murder.

The 10-page decision, written by Judge Jerry Smith, notes that “no 
showing has been made that any state retrial (or any appeal) will be 
improperly handled.” Smith said further proceedings would be expedited.

The state Attorney General’s office, which is prosecuting the case, 
applauded the ruling.

“We are pleased with the Court’s decision that this inmate should remain 
in custody as the State pursues its appeal,” spokesman Aaron Sadler said 
in a statement. “It has always been the State’s priority to ensure 
justice for the brutal slaying of Brent Miller and to hold accountable 
this murderer who has an extensive history of violent crimes.”

In their own statement, Woodfox’s attorneys said they hoped the Fifth 
Circuit would eventually agree with Brady that the case can’t be fairly 
brought before another jury.

“This is the rare, exceptional instance in which it is appropriate for 
the federal court to step in and prevent the state from attempting to 
mount an unfair trial,” attorneys George Kendall and Carine Williams 
said. “As the district court stated, a third trial would be unfair at 
best. With all key witnesses now deceased there is no longer a 
possibility of a reliable new trial. The fact that two previous 
convictions have been reversed demonstrates the weakness of the State’s 
case, even when those witnesses were living.”

Before the appellate decision, Miller’s sister said Friday morning she 
hoped Woodfox would not be released.

“He has been convicted several times by a jury,” Wanda Callender said in 
a phone interview.

“It’s sad when the justice system fails you.”

Releasing Woodfox would set a dangerous precedent for other state 
prisoners who may be sick, or those involved in cases in which witnesses 
have died, Callender argued.

“Do you think it’s right? I don’t,” she said.

Callender said she would continue to oppose Woodfox’s release on her 
brother’s behalf.

“Brent does not have any voice except ours. … Our family has been 
through a lot,” she said.

“(Woodfox) has a debt to pay to society, as well as our family.”

Woodfox has maintained he is not guilty of stabbing Miller, saying he 
and co-defendant Herman Wallace were targeted for the 1972 killing by 
Angola leadership because they had been Black Panther activists at the 
prison and agitated for better conditions. While he was convicted twice, 
once in 1973 and again in 1998, those convictions were overturned 
because of the way the grand juries that indicted Woodfox were selected.

The longtime prisoner’s attorneys have argued that the witnesses against 
Woodfox were always problematic, but particularly so now that most of 
them are dead and can’t actually testify in person. Even during the 1998 
trial, a key inmate witness, Hezekiah Brown, who identified Woodfox as 
participating in Miller’s stabbing, was already deceased. Brown’s 
testimony was read into the record.

During that trial, defense attorneys tried to cast doubt on the veracity 
of the inmate testimony, saying both that they received special favors 
for naming Miller’s alleged killers and could also have been coerced by 
a former warden.

In ruling that the state Attorney General’s office could not retry 
Woodfox for a third time, Brady agreed that one troubling factor was the 
lack of witnesses who are still alive. He also cited the inmate’s ill 
health and his exceptionally long stint in solitary confinement.

Over the years, Woodfox became known as one of the “Angola 3,” inmates 
who had spent an exceptionally long time in a solitary tier at Louisiana 
State Penitentiary at Angola. Others members were Wallace and Robert 
King Wilkerson, who like the other two had been a Black Panther. 
Wilkerson, now known as Robert King, was released years ago. Wallace 
died in 2013, days after he was released.

Miller’s widow Teenie Rogers has spoken publicly about her conviction 
that Woodfox is innocent of her late husband’s murder. She came to her 
belief after reviewing evidence brought to her by an investigator 
working on the Angola 3 case.

In a statement released this week, Rogers reiterated that belief. “I 
remain stunned that I am still forced to relive the worst thing that 
ever happened to me every year. I wish the state of Louisiana would stop 
spending all this money paying lawyers to keep Albert in prison for even 
longer than the 43 years he has already been there. If it were up to me, 
those resources would be spent on victim services. I also wish they 
would have used some of my taxpayer money to find out who left a 
fingerprint in Brent’s blood at the crime scene, because it wasn’t 
Albert Woodfox, and it wasn’t Herman Wallace, and it certainly wasn’t 
Robert King,” she said.

But Callender was critical of Rogers, saying the couple had only been 
married two months when Miller was killed and that “she is not part of 
our family and never has been.”

-- 
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