Forty-three years in solitary confinement, a conviction overturned three times, and a retrial barred, yet the last remaining member of the Angola 3 remains imprisoned.

U.S. District Judge James J. Brady ordered Albert Woodfox’s immediate release on June 9th, but Woodfox’s much anticipated release was blocked by Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell who appealed the ruling requesting an immediate emergency injunction.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered on June 12th that Woodfox is to remain imprisoned while the state works its way through the appellate system in an attempt to retry Woodfox for the 1972 murder of a prison guard.  Oral arguments for and against Judge Brady’s order are scheduled for the week of August 31st.

Judge Brady has twice reversed Woodfox’s convictions, including in 2013 for racial discrimination during grand jury selection in his 1998 retrial.  The state appealed and Woodfox was re-indicted.  George Kendall and Carine Williams, Woodfox’s attorneys, stressed the unfairness of a third trial, citing, for example, the deaths of witnesses: “The fact that two previous convictions have been reversed demonstrates the weakness of the state’s case, even when the witnesses were living.”

Woodfox has always maintained his innocence.  It is believed by advocates that the Angola 3 were targeted because they organized prisoners to stand against inhumane treatment.  Woodfox, Herman Wallace, and Robert King, “were silenced for exposing racial segregation, systematic corruption and horrific abuse in the biggest prison in the U.S. at that time, an 18,000-acre, former slave plantation called “Angola,” according to Workers World.

Prisoners organized hunger strikes, work stoppages, and political education classes and some formed a Black Panther party chapter.  They all called for investigations into the “unconstitutional and inhumane practices.”  Some of the unrest was violent and a prison guard was killed in 1972.  Activists believe that the prison pinned the crime on the three loudest voices for change incarcerating the men in solitary confinement to prevent further calls for human rights investigations.

Woodfox is one of the longest held prisoners in solitary confinement.  Robert King was released in 2001 and Herman Wallace, after 41 years in solitary, was released in 2013, but died of cancer three days later.  As Wallace was on his death bed, state authorities were organizing an effort to retry him.

On June 11, 18 Louisiana legislators came out in support of Woodfox’s release, including State Rep. Patricia Smith.

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