By Emily Lane, September 2nd 2015
The potential release of Albert Woodfox, who has spent more that 40 years in solitary confinement in Louisiana prisons, will be considered by a federal appeals court Wednesday (Sept. 2) in New Orleans.
Woodfox is under a third indictment in West Feliciana Parish for the 1972 murder of a Louisiana State Penitentiary prison guard, at Angola.
At issue in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday is whether or not an order issued June 8 by U.S. District Judge James Brady, whogranted the unconditional release of the 68-year-old inmate, should stand. Brady ruled not only that Woodfox should be freed, but that he should not be tried a third time for the 43-year-old prison murder.
Louisiana State Attorney General appealed Brady’s decision and successfully secured an injunction to block Woodfox’s release during the appeals process.
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.
Brady listed 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,” Brady wrote.
Amnesty International, one of the largest human rights organizations, has called for Woodfox’s release.
“Today, Albert Woodfox remains doubly trapped — both in solitary confinement and in a deeply flawed legal process that has spanned four decades,” said Jasmine Heiss, a representative with Amnesty International USA who attended Wednesday’s hearing. “Judge Brady’s writ of unconditional release should have been the final chapter in Albert’s 43-year nightmare. Now we can only hope that the courts will finally provide Albert some measure of justice.”
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, the late Herman 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.
Teenie Rogers, the widow of slain guard Brent Miller, recently reiterated previous statements about her belief that Woodfox and Wallace were not responsible for her husband’s death. Miller’s brother, Stan Miller, and other family members, however, have said they believe Woodfox murdered Miller and should remain imprisoned.
This article originally appeared on the Times-Picayune website, Nola.com. To view it completely, click here.