Federal judge orders last ‘Angola Three’ inmate released
By Cain Burdeau, Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS (AP) – The last of the “Angola Three” inmates, whose decades in solitary confinement on a Louisiana prison farm drew international condemnation and became the subject of two documentaries, was ordered released Monday.
The ruling would free 68-year-old Albert Woodfox after more than 40 years in solitary, which human rights experts have said constitutes torture.
U.S. District Judge James Brady of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, ordered the release of Woodfox and took the extra-ordinary step of barring Louisiana prosecutors from trying him for a third time.
A spokesman for the Louisiana Attorney General said the state would appeal Brady’s ruling to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals “to make sure this murderer stays in prison and remains fully accountable for his actions.”
Tory Pegram of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3, who is working with Woodfox’s lawyers on his release, said they are all “thrilled that justice has come for our innocent friend.”
Woodfox was placed in solitary confinement in 1972 after being charged in the death of a Louisiana State Penitentiary guard in April of that year. The prison farm is more commonly known as the Angola prison and it is Louisiana’s only maxi-mum-security prison.
Woodfox and two other state prisoners became known as the Angola Three because of their long stretches in solitary confinement at Angola. Other members of the Angola Three were prisoners Robert King and Herman Wallace.
Woodfox and Wallace, who were both serving unrelated armed robbery sentences, had said they were singled out for harsh treatment, including isolation, because of their political activism. Woodfox and Wallace were former Black Panthers and helped establish a prison chapter of the Black Panther Party at the Angola prison in 1971, set up demonstrations and organized strikes for better conditions.
Wallace, convicted with Woodfox of murder in the death of guard Brent Miller, died last fall only days after a judge freed him and granted him a new trial. King was released in 2001 after his conviction in the death of a fellow inmate in 1973 was reversed.
Woodfox has been tried and convicted twice in the guard’s death, but both convictions were overturned.