Judge Overturns Conviction after 37 Years in Solitary Confinement
- "Angola 3" Member to Be Released On Bail After 37 Years. Conviction
Overturned, Judge Rules Albert Woodfox Must be Free During
Appeals or Re-trial
Angola 3 - Judge Rules Albert Woodfox Must be Free
COALITION TO FREE THE ANGOLA 3
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Lawyers: Ruling Brings Hope for Remaining Prisoner, Also Spent 36
Years in Solitary for Guard's Murder
*Albert Woodfox, who has spent 37 years in prison at Angola
Penitentiary, must be released on bail, according to a ruling issued
today by United States District Judge James Brady. On September
25th, Judge Brady overturned Woodfox's conviction for the 1972 murder
of prison guard Brent Miller. Though the State has announced its
intention to appeal that decision, until such an appeal is
successful, according to today's ruling, there is no conviction on
which to hold Woodfox.
In his decision, Judge Brady wrote:
"[Woodfox] is a frail, sickly, middle aged man who has had an
exemplary conduct record for over the last twenty years. At the
hearing before this Court on October 14, 2008, testimony was adduced
that if released Mr. Woodfox would live with his niece and her family
in a gated subdivision in Slidell, Louisiana. Mr. Woodfox has
withdrawn that request because of fear of harm to his niece and her
family by members... This change was brought about by counsel
representing the State of Louisiana contacting the subdivision home
owners association and providing them with information regarding Mr.
Woodfox. The Court is not totally privy to what information was given
to the association but from the documents filed it is apparent that
the association was not told Mr. Woodfox is frail, sickly, and has had
a clean conduct record for more than twenty years; this Court GRANTS
Mr. Woodfox's motion for release pending the State's appeal."
Herman Wallace, who was also convicted in the murder, remains in
prison at Angola. He has an appeal pending with the Supreme Court of
Louisiana, which is similar in content to Woodfox's successful
appeal. The two men were wrongly convicted based largely on the
testimony of a fellow prisoner, Hezekiah Brown, a serial rapist who
was promised and received a pardon in exchange for his testimony
against them. Brown was the sole professed eyewitness to the murder,
and none of the physical evidence put Herman or Albert at the crime
Woodfox's legal team is now working with the court to reach an
agreement on a suitable release location and plan for Woodfox; once
they agree to a plan, Woodfox will be able to leave Angola. The
lawyers anticipate the process to take several more days.
Woodfox and Wallace were each held in solitary confinement from the
time of the murder until last March, after a federal court concluded
that their suit alleging that such confinement for three decades
constitutes cruel and unusual punishment could go forward. A third
man, Robert King Wilkerson, was held in solitary at Angola at the
same time for a different crime; he was released in 2001 after
showing that he had been wrongfully convicted.
The three are known as the "Angola 3." All black men, they had been
organizing nonviolently for an end to gang-enforced sex slavery and
for better conditions inside the prison. Angola at the time was known
as the "bloodiest prison in the US."
"This is a major victory in a case where justice is long overdue.
Albert went into Angola in his twenties, and he's walking out in his
60s. There is no conviction against him now, and the state should
not take another day of his life," said Chris Aberle, Woodfox's
"In 37 years, Albert never gave up hope that someday he would walk
out the gates of Angola. We continue to hope that Herman will join
him soon. Neither of these men should have spent a day in Angola for
this crime," said Nick Trenticosta, also a lawyer in the case.
The case has attracted attention on the state and national level.
Last spring, US House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers (D-MI)
visited the men, along with Louisiana House Judiciary Committee Chair
Cedric Richmond (D-101). Richmond has announced his intention to hold
hearings on the case, and Conyers continues to monitor developments.
The state had sought a stay of Judge Brady's ruling ordering a new
trial until the appeal process plays out. Judge Brady granted that
request. The State must now either win its appeals, or will need to
either release or retry Woodfox within 120 days of the end of its
Judge Brady held an initial bail hearing on October 14th; he postponed
issuing a decision at that time to allow for additional depositions
to be taken from Angola Warden Burl Cain and from a doctor who had
examined Woodfox and his medical records. The State has now
conducted both of those depositions.
For a copy of the judgment, to speak with the lawyers, or for any
additional information on the case, please contact Emma Mackinnon,
emma@fenton. com or 202 302 6920.
------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- -
PRISON IS NOTHING TO BRAG ABOUT:
A Look into the Mind of Robert Hillary King of the Angola 3
Interview By Jesse Muhammad
Thursday, November 27, 2008
While there are some who may stick out their chests when telling
about long stints behind prison walls, a man who served nearly three
decades in solitary confinement sees it a different way.
He represents one-third of the widely recognized Angola 3. He was
exonerated in 2001, but his other two comrades are not. He is not a
man of many words, but one of many thoughts.
One thing that got me through those 29 years was doing something that
I always enjoyed doing and that was being a thinker, says Robert
Hillary King. I in no way want to minimize the harshness of being in
that cell but I worked hard to not to let them control my mind. So I
read anything I could get my hands on and educated myself of criminal
The Angola 3, which also includes Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace,
arrived at the Angola Prison under various situations in the late
1960s. While inside prison, the three resurrected a prison chapter of
the Black Panther Party in 1971. The men organized prisoners to build
a coalition within the walls and reportedly worked as jailhouse
lawyers helping prisoners file legal papers. Woodfox and Wallace were
convicted of the 1972 stabbing murder of a prison guard.
King was said by authorities to be linked to the murder but was not
even present in that jail at the time but was eventually given a life
sentence. He was initially sent to prison for 35 years for an armed
robbery charge that he believed was not justified. He then escaped
from prison and was subsequently given an additional 8 years for
By the time he was moved to the Angola Prison in November 1970, he
had committed himself to a new found consciousness.
King said âI felt I could maintain my political consciousness
behind bars. We were targeted because of our affiliation with the
Panthers. The evidence in the case of Albert and Herman shows that
they had no part in that murder.
King was exonerated by the state on February 8, 2001 and released
after 29 years in solitary confinement. Wallace and Woodfox are still
prisoners in Angola prison and are working to get released. In March
2008 they were moved, after 36 years, from solitary confinement to a
maximum security dormitory.
âBeing released from jail was surrea, said King. âI had always
hoped that I would be out of prison but I always felt that there was
a possibility I would die in prison too. It took time for me to
acclimate to what I was coming home to.
Since his release, King has worked to build international recognition
for the Angola 3. He has spoken before the parliaments in the
Netherlands, France, Portugal, Indonesia, Brazil and England about
the case and political prisoners in the U.S. He credits Green Party
Congressional candidate Malik Rahim of the New Orleans-based group
Common Ground for bringing the plight of the Angola 3 to the
forefront of people's minds.
When describing the discipline it took to mentally overcome solitary
confinement for that long, King said that, by embracing the ideology
of the Panthers I started to see the whole of America as a prison.
Some people see America as heaven but it's a hell for some especially
poor Black people. So although I was in prison, the prison was not in
I changed my whole psychology. But in saying this I do not want to
minimize prison. It is not sweet. It is nothing to brag about or wear
on your shoulder like a badge of honor. It can devastate you. But
some times the spirit is greater than the circumstance so that worked
for me, he added with passion in his voice.
He described the cruel treatment and âif you are not mindful of who
you are, you may start to believe that you are this evil person they
say you are. So you have to rise above it and I was able to do that
but what worked for me may not work for others.
King soaked up countless books and became what he calls a prolific
writer. I was thinking about my life and all of those things that
connected us as a people together. It took discipline. Angola took a
lot from me but it also gave a lot to me because I rose above.
He has now released a book about his experience titled From the
Bottom of the Heap: The Autobiography of Black Panther Robert Hillary
King which he says in part shows that there are some things that
overcomes logic and that we sometimes must go against the odds.
Back at the Farm
Wanda Sabir - <wandasabir@gmail. com
Herman Wallace, incarcerated member of Angola 3, was hospitalized for
a short time yesterday after passing out while visiting with Jackie
Sumell, artist, "The House that Herman Built." Herman called his
sister Vickie this morning (11/29) and told her he was back in his
cell and to tell everyone not to worry, he's fine. If we take the
word of the prison authorities regarding the health and well-being of
our brother then we are more foolish than I thought. It's a fifth
weekend, which means at Angola State Prison in Lousiana, no one can
visit on Saturday and Sunday; however, attorneys can and one of the
legal team should visit Herman, (and check on Albert too) so that he
can assess the situation visually and hopefully medically, with an
Herman does have a diagnosis of heart disease, Robert H. King said.
We are not acting overzealously in our concern, which is what prison
officials told Jackie I'm told. (I haven't been able to reach Jackie
either Friday or Saturday, 11/28 or 11/29).
I spoke to Mwalimu Johnson, executive assistant, Capital Post-
Conviction Project of Louisiana, and a former political prisoner, who
suggested the legal team file the restraining order anyway; a
recommendation from Geronimo ji jaga and Robert H. King, both former
political prisoners and prisoners of war. Even without proof, the
document will be on file and in Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox's
records should the need arise to reference them. Such legal foresight
could also serve as a deterrent for any possible plans the
institution might have for harming these men as they have over the
almost 40 years the State of Louisiana has had control of their
Herman is still in the hole, after a short time spent in a hastily
constructed cell block in May, 2008, after 36 years in consecutive
solitary confinement. Both he and Albert are back in solitary
confinement. Freedom is a constant struggle as is the struggle for
justice and equality, especially for a descendent of an enslaved
Africa on of all places, a former plantation.
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