6251180613_7a12792c8d Albert Woodfox, the country’s longest serving solitary confinement prisoner, will probably stand trial for a 3rd time in the 1972 murder of a prison guard.

A request by Woodfox’s attorneys to throw the case out was denied recently by Judge William Carmichael.

Woodfox, 68, has maintained his innocence in the case and has been held in solitary confinement, also known as closed-cell restriction, for more than 40 years.  His confinement has attracted international attention with human rights organizations and the New York Times editorial board calling for his release from the inhumane incarceration and questions about the reasons behind it.  Many believe he was put in solitary confinement due to his political affiliation with the Black Panther Party and calls for prison reforms.

The judge has also denied the defense’s request for a change of venue.  The trial will take place for the 3rd time in the same parish where 23-year-old prison guard Brent Miller was stabbed to death nearly 43 years ago at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as Angola Prison.

The judge did grant the defense’s request for fingerprint testing on evidence found at the crime scene.  Woodfox’s supporters say previous testing already determined that the fingerprints are not his.  The judge also allowed, for the first time in the case, DNA testing on the alleged murder weapon and other items from the crime scene.  Prosecutors did not object to the additional testing.

The judge denied a defense request to exclude testimony from long dead witnesses mainly because they cannot cross-examine them.  This means, prosecutors can bring up old testimony verbatim from old transcripts.  A federal appeals court is currently weighing whether or not to block the third trial.  Judge James Brady ruled this past June that Woodfox shouldn’t face a retrial, but the state appealed.

Woodfox and two other former prisoners were designated the Angola 3 from what supporters say were wrongful convictions in retaliation for the prisoners’ activism for better conditions in the early 1970s.  Woodfox, Herman Wallace, and Robert King were all implicated in the murder, supporters say, they were framed because they led hunger strikes and other demonstrations against inhumane conditions.  King was released in 2001 after serving 29 years in solitary confinement.  Wallace was released in 2013, but died two days later from liver cancer.

photo credit: IMG_0732 via photopin (license)

Source:  NOLA


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