After third court victory, Woodfox still not free

Albert Woodfox

Albert Woodfox

Forty-three years in solitary confinement is 43 years too long. Albert Woodfox, the last imprisoned member of the Angola 3, should be released immediately. Yet, although a federal judge three times has ordered him freed, the state of Louisiana is hell-bent on keeping him in prison.

U.S. District Judge James J. Brady ordered Woodfox’s immediate release on June 9 and barred prosecutors from trying him a third time. But Woodfox’s much-anticipated freedom was not to be. Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell quickly appealed this ruling, requesting an emergency stay to block the release.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered on June 12 that Woodfox be imprisoned while the state appeals this ruling in its attempt to try him for a third time for an Angola prison guard’s murder in 1972 — despite his convictions being overturned twice. Oral arguments for and against Judge Brady’s order are scheduled for the week of Aug. 31.

Judge Brady twice reversed Woodfox’s convictions, including in 2013, due to racial discrimination in grand jury selection in his 1998 retrial. The state appealed. Then Woodfox was reindicted in February.

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.” (The Advocate, June 14)

Woodfox maintains his innocence, and the facts of the case are on his side.

Longtime support for Angola 3

Workers World has actively supported the struggle for justice and freedom for the Angola 3: Woodfox, Herman Wallace and Robert King.

A WW article dated June 8, 2012, explained that “Woodfox’s case began 40 years ago, deep in rural southern Louisiana, when he and two other young Black men, 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.”

Prisoners organized hunger strikes, work stoppages and political education classes — even forming a Black Panther Party chapter, reported WW. They called for investigations into “unconstitutional and inhumane practices. After a prison guard was killed in a 1972 rebellion, officials framed the three activists and threw them into solitary confinement.”

Robert King was let out in 2001. After 41 years in solitary, Herman Wallace was released on Oct. 1, 2013, but died of cancer three days later. As Wallace lay dying, state authorities were feverishly trying to imprison him again.

Incarcerated at Angola for 40 years, Woodfox was then transferred to the David Wade Correctional Center and is now at the West Feliciana Detention Center. He is one of the longest-held prisoners in solitary confinement.

Woodfox’s unbending fight for freedom has garnered international support. Thousands of actions have been held and tens of thousands of petition signatures obtained calling for his release. On June 11, 18 Louisiana legislators voted to allow Judge Brady’s release order to stand.

Albert Woodfox reaffirms that he remains strong and will never give up until he gets justice. See for updates and this courageous prisoner’s address, to send letters of support.