Saturday, September 27, 2008

Woodfox Conviction Overturned After 36 Years in Solitary

CONTACT: Emma Mackinnon

Conviction Overturned After 36 Years in Solitary For "Angola 3" Member Albert Woodfox

Federal Judge Orders the State: Must Either Retry or Dismiss Charges Against "Angola 3" Member

Lawyers: Charges Should be Dismissed Immediately; Otherwise, Woodfox Should be Released on Bail

In response to a federal judge's decision overturning the conviction of Albert Woodfox, one of the two "Angola 3" members who remain in prison, lawyers for the men called on the State Attorney General's office to drop any further charges and release the men immediately.

If the state intends to re-try Woodfox, they said, he should be released on bail until the time of trial. They argued the man, now 61 and in poor health, has spent long enough imprisoned on a wrongful conviction and that continuing to hold him would be unthinkable. They plan a press conference call for tomorrow, Friday, at 11 AM CDT; to join, reporters can dial 1-800-895-1085 and provide conference ID "Angola."

Woodfox and fellow inmate Herman Wallace have been imprisoned since 1972 for the murder of prison guard Brent Miller. They spent 36 years of that time in solitary confinement. The federal judge's ruling acknowledged that Woodfox has been wrongfully imprisoned. His conviction rested on the testimony of a fellow prisoner, a convicted serial rapist who was promised and received the warden's help obtaining a pardon in exchange for testifying against Herman and Albert. The deal was not disclosed at trial; the witness was pardoned and freed later. An additional witness, who said he had seen Albert in the area of the crime, was a schizophrenic who was on heavy doses of psychotropic medications at the time of the murder, which also was not disclosed. No physical evidence ties Woodfox or Wallace to the crime.

"Both the magistrate judge and the district court judge have now found that Woodfox's conviction was invalid and had to be reversed. Woodfox has demonstrated the deep flaws in the state's investigation and prosecution of the case against him, and has presented evidence of his innocence. If the State of Louisiana appeals, it will bear the burden of showing the court of appeals that both of the two judges were
incorrect. As the facts and the law are so clearly on the side of Mr. Woodfox, we are confident that the State cannot carry that burden. No further legal delay should deprive Albert of even one more day of his life," said Chris Aberle, one of Woodfox's lawyers.

"The state has already stolen nearly four decades of Albert Woodfox's life. The injustice in this case is unfathomable. How can Louisiana continue to imprison a 61 year old man after a federal judge has ruled that he shouldn't have been convicted in the first place? Albert must be released," said Nick Trenticosta, co-counsel in the case.

The third member of the Angola 3, Robert King, was released in 2001 after a judge overturned his conviction. King had spent 29 years in solitary confinement for a separate crime.

For a copy of the ruling or to speak with lawyers in the case, call Emma Mackinnon at 202-302-6920 or email

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