Wednesday, April 30, 2008

House panel to hold hearings in Angola 3 case

House panel to hold hearings in Angola 3 case
Advocate Capitol News Bureau
Published: Apr 30, 2008 - Page: 4A - UPDATED: 12:05 a.m.

The state House Judiciary Committee will begin holding hearings in May to demand answers in the case of two men imprisoned in solitary confinement for 36 years.

Judiciary Chairman Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, on Tuesday cited the “massive amount of evidence” indicating their innocence in the 1972 stabbing death of a guard during a riot at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

Prisoners Herman “Hooks” Wallace and Albert Woodfox, along with Robert King, who was released in 2001, are known as the “Angola 3.”

They claim they were illegally targeted for starting a prison Black Panthers chapter during the Civil Rights era and have unfairly paid for the injustice ever since.

Richmond brought about 25,000 petition signatures to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office on Tuesday expressing the “concern and outrage” about the case worldwide.

In fact, a British film crew is making a documentary about the case.

“The state is too silent on this issue,” Richmond said. “So that’s what we’re going to have — official government action.

“We’re fresh off the Jena 6. Now, we’re on the Angola 3,” Richmond said. “At some point, we’re going to have to stand up as a state.”

Jindal did not respond Tuesday to two requests for comment.

His press secretary, Melissa Sellers, said Jindal is letting the court appeals and the state Pardon Board processes play out first.

Richmond said he wants Jindal to push for pardons for the men.

Richmond discussed evidence of a bloody fingerprint at the murder scene that did not match either Wallace’s or Woodfox’s prints.

“I know solitary confinement for 36 years is wrong. I know we want to find the real killer,” Richmond said. “What we don’t know is why the investigation didn’t run its course.”

Richmond was flanked Tuesday by state Rep. Avon Honey, D-Baton Rouge; Rep. Elbert Guillory, D-Opelousas; and King, who used to go by the last name Wilkerson.

Richmond said he will use all his committee’s subpoena power to get to the bottom of the case.

King, 65, said the case shows the state’s criminal justice system is not always “so set on justice.

“They are innocent,” King said, arguing that they were “railroaded” for being Black Panthers during turbulent times.

It was not until last month that Wallace and Woodfox were moved from solitary into Angola’s maximum-security dormitory.

They are appealing their convictions in the stabbing death of a guard, Brent Miller.

The 23-year-old corrections officer was stabbed 32 times.

All of the three are from the New Orleans area.

Nineteenth Judicial District Commissioner Rachel Morgan previously recommended that Wallace get a new trial. But that was rejected by state District Judge Mike Erwin and the case is pending in the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal.

Woodfox is appealing in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge.

U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., has even contended the men were wrongly convicted. The state Attorney General’s Office also is looking into the case.

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