Last member of "Angola Three" indicted again
ST. FRANCISVILLE - A grand jury in West Feliciana Parish returned a murder indictment Thursday against Albert Woodfox, a member of the "Angola Three", for the 1972 murder of a prison guard at Angola state prison.
This is the third time Woodfox has been indicted for the murder of corrections officer Bent Miller, according to the Louisiana attorney general's office. Woodfox was originally convicted of Miller's death in 1973, but that was overturned on grand jury issues. A second indictment and conviction in 1998 was overturned in Nov. 2014 by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
State and federal judges cited racial discrimination, misconduct by the prosecution, and inadequate defense as reasons for overturning the convictions. Attorney General Buddy Caldwell vowed after the Fifth Circuit appeal was overturned to re-try Woodfox.
"The facts of the case remain solid. Despite Woodfox's last ditch efforts to obtain a 'get out of jail free' pass on grand jury selection issues, the proof of his guilt in committing the murder is undeniable," Caldwell said Thursday.
Attorney George Kendall, who represents Woodfox, released a statement which said they were "disappointed" Louisiana was pursuing another attempt to indict and convict his client.
"This case has already spanned four decades and cost Louisiana millions of dollars, while Mr. Woodfox has been unjustly held in solitary confinement," he said.
Woodfox, along with Herman Wallace and Robert King, were all convicted in the guard's death and put into solitary confinement. Woodfox has spent more than 42 years in solitary, remaining shackled for most of that time, making him the longest-serving solitary confinement prisoner in the U. S. He continued to protest innocence, claiming he and the rest of the Angola Three were victims of a political vendetta for their membership in the Black Panther party and the formation of a chapter in the prison which led hunger strikes and other protests.
King's conviction was overturned and he was released in 2001 after pleading to a lesser charge of conspiracy to commit murder. Wallace was granted released in 2013 by U. S. District Court Judge Brian Jackson because of advanced liver cancer. He was re-indicted two days later, but died the next day before he could be re-arrested.
According to Amnesty International, which has petitioned for the Angola Three's release, no physical evidence links the three men to the crime, potential DNA evidence was lost, and the main eyewitness has since been discredited. A federal judge noted in 2007 that the decades of solitary confinement had exacted harsh physical and mental tolls on the Angola Three.
On Thursday, Caldwell called Woodfox a "dangerous man" in his press release.
"We will continue to fight to ensure that this dangerous man is held fully accountable for his actions," the attorney general said.