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VIDEO: Azadeh Zohrabi on CA Hunger Strikers, Solitary Confinement, and Herman Wallace

5:02 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

Azadeh Zohrabi spoke in San Francisco on November 8, 2013, at an event alongside Robert H. King of the Angola 3, who was released in 2001 after 29 years in continuous solitary confinement. We will be releasing more video footage soon, of both King and Zohrabi during the Q and A following the screening of the new film about King entitled Hard Time.

Azadeh Zohrabi has almost 10 years of experience visiting and advocating for people in California’s prisons. During this time, she has worked on a range of issues including improving the conditions of confinement for pregnant women and limiting the use of solitary confinement in both juvenile and adult institutions. Azadeh recently graduated from UC Hastings College of the Law and was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship to work with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children on minimizing the use of long term solitary confinement in California. She is the author and co-author of two scholarly articles: Resistance and Repression: The Black Guerrilla Family in Context, and Creating the “Bad Mother”: How the U.S. Approach to Pregnancy in Prisons Violates the Right to be a Mother. Azadeh has been inspired by LSPC’s work long before she even thought about law school and is grateful for the opportunity to work with such experienced, dedicated and passionate advocates.

Watch video here  

Torture by Design: Saying No to the Architecture of Solitary Confinement –An interview with Raphael Sperry

7:53 am in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

Torture by Design: Saying No to the Architecture of Solitary Confinement and Cruelty
–An interview with Raphael Sperry

By Angola 3 News

Jerry, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition


Friday, August 16 marked the 40th consecutive day of a multi-ethnic statewide prisoner hunger strike initiated from inside the Security Housing Unit (SHU) of California’s Pelican Bay State Prison. When the strike first began on July 8, the ‘California Department of Corrections and Reform’ (CDCR) reported 30,000 participants statewide, which the Los Angeles Times reported “could be the largest prison protest in state history.”

This week, as the striking prisoners’ health continued to worsen, the families of prisoners and supporters gathered on the steps of the State Capitol building in Sacramento, and over 120 health professionals called “upon Governor Jerry Brown and Jeffrey Beard, Secretary of the CDCR, to immediately enter into good-faith negotiations with the prisoner representatives, and to respond to their demands, in order to end this crisis before lives are lost.”

The current hunger strike follows on the heels of a similar 2011 strike that was also initiated from the Pelican Bay SHU, with the same five demands. Further illustrating the scandalous nature of California’s prison system, this month the US Supreme Court ruling once again that 10,000 prisoners must be removed from state prisons, and documentation has emerged of widespread sterilization of California’s female prisoners.

As the horror of solitary confinement comes under increasing scrutiny in the US and around the world,  human rights activists are confronting this public health and safety epidemic from a variety of angles. One group, called Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) has challenged solitary confinement in US prisons by recently launching a Change.org petition “asking the American Institute of Architects (AIA, the mainstream professional association for architects) to amend its Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct to prohibit the design of spaces for killing, torture, and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. In the United States, this comprises the design of execution chambers and super-maximum security prisons (‘supermax’), where solitary confinement is an intolerable form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. As people of conscience and as a profession dedicated to improving the built environment for all people, we cannot participate in the design of spaces that violate human life and dignity. Participating in the development of buildings designed for killing, torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading is fundamentally incompatible with professional practice that respects standards of decency and human rights. AIA has the opportunity to lead our profession in upholding human rights.”

In this interview, we speak with Raphael Sperry, an architect and President of Architects / Designers / Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR).  He is a Soros Justice Fellow and advocates for architects to engage with issues of human rights in the built environment, especially in U.S. prisons. He has participated in the design of airports, office towers, and private homes among other building types, and has taught architecture at Stanford University and California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

Angola 3 News:  For years now, CA prison authorities have cited alleged ‘gang’ affiliations as the official reason for so many prisoners’ placement in prolonged solitary confinement. Recently, CDCR authorities have publicly claimed that the ongoing CA prison hunger strike is a ‘gang conspiracy.’ What do you think of the authorities’ continuing refusal to acknowledge that the hunger strikers’ demands have even a hint of legitimacy?
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A3 Newsletter: On a Move, But the Struggle Continues (Updates on Herman Wallace and more)

9:50 am in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

(Published by the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3, on August 5, 2013)

On July 12, Louisiana’s Hunt prison reduced Herman Wallace’s classification from maximum to medium security and transferred him out of solitary confinement into a 10-bunk dorm inside the prison hospital, where he has access to a day room, and does not have to wear leg irons.

While celebrating the more humane conditions, we emphasize that the transfer from solitary is not enough and we are asking folks to continue supporting Amnesty International’s call for compassionate release. If you have not yet done so, please take action here.

Expedited Review of Herman’s Case

There is also some exciting news in Herman’s long dormant habeas case. Judge Jackson began a recent status conference with Herman’s legal team by granting Herman’s request for expedited review.  He said he will not issue a formal ruling but has spoken with the Magistrate Judge (Riedlinger) and gotten assurances that he can and will issue his recommendation within 30 days. Then each side will have 14 days to submit simultaneous responses, and another 14 days after receiving the other’s first response to rebut. Judge Jackson said he is prepared to rule as soon as both sides have their final say.

Herman’s Health

In more disturbing news, it also came to light last week that the medical team at LSU, where the prison took Herman to for diagnosis 6 weeks ago, had actually ordered 2 rounds of oral chemo, to have started then, 6 weeks ago. However, the prison failed to administer this altogether, and as a consequence Herman’s tumor has continued to grow.  This proves what was already suspected–that the prison is not providing anything close to a reasonable standard of care. In fact it seems to be intentionally disregarding the medical advice that they themselves had sought. This is on the heels of a diagnosis that, by expert opinion, is at least six months later than it should have been given Herman’s recent medical past.  After some quick pressure from the legal team, Herman has now begun his oral chemo regimen. He has not yet experienced any pain related to the treatments and seems to have regained his appetite. Hopefully they can help slow the progress of his disease and give us some much needed time to ensure that his does not become the poster case for “justice delayed is justice denied.”

A3 Together Again

In more heartwarming news, last week Herman, Albert, and Robert were together again for the first time in several years, thanks to a court order granting them time to meet jointly with their attorneys in the lead up to the civil case next summer.  Obviously, they had tons of business to discuss during the 6 hour meeting, but as those lucky enough to have spent time with them in person know, there is something intangibly magical about each of these incredible men individually, and therefore something incredibly powerful and productive about them all being together in the same room once again. The attorneys have gotten a court order to have regular monthly meetings leading up to the trial next June.

New Song Dedicated to Herman

Amy Ray from the Indigo Girls has just released a new song inspired by Herman Wallace and the Angola 3, entitled The Rise of the Black Messiah. The song’s title is a reference to the infamous March 3, 1968 FBI COINTELPRO memorandum from one month before Martin Luther King’s assassination, declaring the need to “prevent the rise of a ‘messiah’ who could unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement,” with the then anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist King cited by the FBI as a potential ‘messiah.’

Reflecting on making her song about Herman, Amy Ray describes the challenge of finding words to describe what Herman has been subjected to: “Any person, let alone an innocent one suffering in solitary confinement for 40 years, is just paralyzing. There are no gray areas in the case of the Angola 3, this is clearly an abuse of human rights, but the historical context of it is so mind-blowing that it’s hard to write about.”

–Read Amy Ray’s full accompanying essay and listen to / download The Rise of the Black Messiah here.

A3 Solidarity With CA Prisoner Hunger Strike

Albert, Herman and Robert have all been involved in numerous hunger strikes from their early 1970′s strikes demanding that food trays not be shoved under the cell door on the floor for sanitary reasons, to their last hunger strike in 1998 to protest the prisons reduction of their hard won contact visit privileges and other diminishing rights.

Robert says: “During the early seventies, Albert, Herman, and I participated in hunger strikes. We understood then (and now) that this was an effective ‘tool’ to get the attention of the prison administration, and it sets the stage for further negotiations.”

This week, our media activist project, Angola 3 News, published video coverage of the July 31 protest in Oakland, organized in support of the hunger strikers in California. You can watch our short video clips of three different speakers here.

For the latest news on the hunger strike, stay tuned here.

Abusing Prisoners Decreases Public Safety –An interview with educator, author and former prisoner Shawn Griffith

4:39 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

Abusing Prisoners Decreases Public Safety

–An interview with educator, author and former prisoner Shawn Griffith

 

By Angola 3 News

 

If given the attention it deserves, an important new book is certain to make significant contributions to the public discussions of US prison policy. The author, Shawn Griffith, was released last year from Florida’s prison system at the age of 41, after spending most of his life, almost 24 years, behind bars, including seven in solitary confinement. Facing the US PrisonProblem 2.3 Million Strong: An Ex-Con’s View of the Mistakes and the Solution was self-published just months after Griffith was released from what is the third largest state prison system in the US, after California and Texas.

Angola Prison

Angola Prison

This new book’s thoughtful analysis and chilling reflections on what author Shawn Griffith experienced while incarcerated is a remarkable illustration of why the US public must listen to the voices of current and former prisoners who have stories that only they can tell. Griffith writes that “by integrating my own personal experiences with statistics and examples from different corrections systems around the nation, I am attempting to discredit the general perception that the system is designed to enforce and protect justice for everyone. The U.S. criminal justice system is an economically and politically profitable enterprise for special interest groups in this country. The general taxpayer needs to understand how the abusive policies fostered by these groups worsen the U.S. prison problem and the debt crisis through wasted corrections expenditures.”

 

Florida’s state prisons are the book’s main focus because “the majority of prisoners are incarcerated in state institutions. As of 2010, the US incarcerated 1,404,053 prisoners in state correctional institutions. For that reason, and based on my own twenty years of experience… Florida serves as an especially relevant test case for the changes needed in the US correctional system for two reasons. First is the size of Florida’s prison population and some of the political causes of its growth… Second, Florida has enacted some of the toughest sentencing laws of any state, causing correctional budgets to soar while educational budgets have been cut repeatedly,” writes Griffith.

 

After reading about the many different ways prisoners are abused, the very notion that US prisons are designed to rehabilitate or improve public safety, can only be viewed as a sick joke. Griffith writes that “hidden behind the walls, huge numbers of human beings have their spirits broken daily. Secretly, many suffer false disciplinary reports, illegitimate confiscation or destruction of personal property, physical beatings, rape, and sometimes fraudulent criminal penalties. Substandard nutrition, indifference to serious medical needs, and policies that encourage laziness have also become common. These practices help to sustain rates of recidivism, which is defined as a return to prison within three years of release.”

 

“Indeed, the strongest factor in reducing the rate of criminal recidivism is education, especially higher education, the one correctional expenditure that federal and state politicians have slashed.  This course must be reversed,’ writes Griffith, himself an example of the healing power of educational programs for prisoners. While incarcerated he began his long journey to full rehabilitation, gaining his GED and then taking over 40 accredited college correspondence courses with an emphasis on criminal justice, psychology, and marketing. He has a 3.5 GPA from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. As a teacher in prison, he helped hundreds of inmates gain their GEDs.

 

Since his release in 2012, Griffith has lived in Sarasota, Florida where he founded Speak Out Publishing to publish other works of non-fiction that focus on tackling some of societies’ most pressing issues. Copies of Facing the US Prison Problem 2.3 Million Strong can be purchased directly from Griffith, through his website: www.speakoutpublishing.com, by mail: Speak Out Publishing, LLC at P.O. Box 50484 Sarasota, Florida 34232, or by phone: 941-330-5979.

 

Angola 3 News:         You write that this book “isn’t just a commentary on correctional problems and solutions…it is also to share the human side of the story.” Based on your experience of spending almost 24 years in a Florida prison, what is the human side of this story?

 

Shawn Griffith:         Sometimes I think people forget that prisoners and their families are people. The prisoners have committed crimes, but many of them come to prison with serious psychological issues, and they still have feelings like every person in this world. Most prisoners are not sociopaths, but instead human beings with more pain and trauma in their pasts than the average citizen. Committing crimes, for the most part, is a direct sign of their mental instability.

 

A good example was a murderer with the moniker, Arkansas. Arkansas was a real stand-up guy in prison. He was someone who kept his word, minded his own business, but had a violent father who instilled violent teachings into his head repeatedly during childhood. He would give a friend the shirt off of his back, but if you tried to harm him or get over on him, his training went into effect. He had some serious psychological issues that I saw him struggle with every day.

 
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Marking 41 Years of Solitary, the Angola 3 Coalition launches campaign for a State Congressional Hearing to end prolonged solitary confinement in Louisiana

10:36 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

 

 

A3 Newsletter: Four Score and One Too Many Years

–By the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3

Today, April 17, 2013, marks 41 years that Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace have been unjustly incarcerated in solitary confinement in Louisiana. This is 41 years of living in concrete and metal cages of 6 x 9 feet; 41 years of being separated from their families and loved ones; 41 years of being wrongly accused of a murder they did not commit.

Over 41 years ago, prison officials at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (aka ‘Angola’), an 18,000-acre former slave plantation, were first confronted by the Angola 3′s challenge to the obscene human rights atrocities that were a daily reality for prisoners there. They responded to these efforts by fabricating a case against Albert and Herman for the tragic murder of prison guard Brent Miller in 1972. Shortly thereafter, when Robert King entered Angola, he was ensnared in the aftermath of that murder and joined Herman and Albert in solitary.

Although the flame for justice for the Angola 3 continues to burn bright these many decades later, words cannot express the profound rage and frustration we feel commemorating one more year of Herman and Albert’s confinement. But we will not lose hope or forget how much we have already accomplished and just how close we are to winning both Herman and Albert’s release. Solitary confinement’s daily assault on Herman and Albert’s mind, body and spirit has not been able to deter them. Inspired by their heroic resilience on the frontlines of the struggle, we too, will never give up our fight for their release.

Continuing this fight for Albert, Herman and all prisoners, today we are launching an action to kick-start the call for a State Congressional Hearing to end the use of prolonged solitary confinement in Louisiana. Our friends at The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) have enabled this through their campaign calling “upon state legislators and departments of corrections to begin now to take steps to end prolonged solitary confinement” in all 50 states and the federal prison system.

We need only 500 people within a particular state to sign the statement and NRCAT will send these endorsements to that state’s governor, top corrections officials, and every member of that state’s legislature. When we hit 1,000 signatures they will do the same again. PLEASE spread the word to help us achieve our petition goal for Louisiana and in states across the country. Please sign this now.

The campaign for the Angola 3 grows in strength around the world, from local organizations to international NGO’s like Amnesty International (read their new statement marking 41 years) joining the call for justice. While Herman and Albert continue to live the hell that is solitary confinement, this cruel and unusual punishment is in the news more than ever before – with calls for its abolition from state congresses and increasing evidence of its violations to human rights.

Albert, Herman and Robert do not want anyone else to suffer the hellish torture they still endure today. Thank you all for your continued support. Without you the flame of justice would not burn so strongly.  Please mark this day by taking action to end the use of prolonged solitary confinement in Louisiana and the USA.

Events Mark 41 Years

This week you can also join us at one of the many events commemorating 41 years.

The new Canadian film Hard Time is screening this week in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

A 41-hour vigil on April 19-21, in New Orleans is being organized by the Angola 3 Movement, with Hard Time shown alongside more films and presentations.

In New York City, Herman’s House, the film, will premiere on April 19.

In Europe, Amnesty France is hosting a screening of In the Land of the Free in Paris on April 30.

 A Defined Voice 
–By Herman Wallace, 2006

They removed my whisper from general population

To maximum security I gained a voice

They removed my voice from maximum security

To administrative segregation

My voice gave hope

They removed my voice from administrative segregation

To solitary confinement

My voice became vibration for unity

They removed my voice from solitary confinement

To the Supermax of Camp J

And now they wish to destroy me

The louder my voice the deeper they bury me

I SAID, THE LOUDER MY VOICE THE DEEPER THEY BURY ME!

Free all political prisoners, prisoners of war, prisoner of consciousness.

Last Chance to take action w/ Amnesty Intl for Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3

11:58 am in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

There are only a few days remaining before Amnesty International ends their online action campaign urging Louisiana Attorney General James Caldwell to not appeal the February 25 ruling by US District Court Judge James Brady that overturned Albert Woodfox’s conviction. Because Caldwell has already said that he will appeal the ruling to the US Fifth Circuit Court, this public pressure is badly needed for Albert, who is now just weeks away from his 41st year in solitary confinement. If you have not yet done so, please take action here.

Angola Prison

Angola Prison

Watch MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry tell AG Caldwell to “lay off the Angola 3 already.” 
 

 (The statement below from Robert King was released as part of the March 27 issue of the A3 Coalition newsletter, which you can read in full here.)

Robert H. King responds to Louisiana Attorney General James Caldwell

Many thanks to all of you who have aided our cause and added your voices to our quest to free Albert from an obviously unjust imprisonment of more than 40 years. Please continue to make your voices heard and your dissent known, especially in light of the recent email response by Louisiana’s Attorney General, James Caldwell. One wonders: Why in the face of so many mitigating facts and circumstances would the Attorney General persist in his unethical efforts to pursue the persecution of Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace? Is it really justice he seeks, or is there something else he wants? The following may add some light to the subject.
When Woodfox was first granted a new trial in 1993, the Attorney General’s Office elected to retry the case, which is a rare occurrence. Twenty-three years earlier, John Sinquefield, a young and ambitious local assistant district attorney, prosecuted Albert and made repeated references/inferences to Albert’s political beliefs and militancy. Having had prior involvement in this case, Sinquefield could not (or chose not to) prosecute in his second hearing. However, this recusion (or self restraint) did not apply to his assistants. Enter Julie Cullen, an attorney working with Sinquefield.  It was Cullen who declared to the press, that she would retry Albert as “a ‘Black Panther.” During that trial in 1999,when I appeared as a character witness for Albert, Julie Cullen made repeated references to Woodfox’s militancy as Sinquefield had done before her and Woodfox was again convicted.

Sinquefield, Cullen and Caldwell were all previously connected to this case by the thread of time and they have all used this case to further their careers. Sinquefield and Caldwell are well-documented boyhood friends, who went to school together, graduated together and became lawyers together. In Sinquefield’s own words, “We’ve been friends, allies ever since.” Julie Cullen has worked with and been very close to both men. As you can see, their careers have been protected at all costs, even accusing innocent men of murder or rape, as Caldwell in his recent email has done once again.

Buddy Caldwell has long done a great disservice to people of intelligence, especially lawyers…and jurists, in his attempt to sell this malicious and unsubstantiated rape lie. If, in 1969 there had been actual evidence of Albert committing rape, why would the system instead choose to try Woodfox on only the lesser charge of robbery? According to Caldwell, Albert was considered “a career criminal.” The logical question therefore remains…If Albert had committed all of these other alleged crimes and was in fact a career criminal, why was he not prosecuted? Just for the record – any young black man that was arrested became a suspect for unsolved crimes. This was a process so widespread that across the country the practice is known as “clearing the books.”

It is in this same context that Caldwell has wrongfully accused Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace of committing the murder of prison guard Brent Miller. The evidence linking Herman and Albert to the crime is nonexistent. The bloody fingerprint at the scene of the crime did not match Herman or Albert’s. A knife found at the scene of the crime had no fingerprints on it at all. Other DNA evidence that allegedly had Albert’s specks of blood on it was lost by the prison. Furthermore, multiple alibi witnesses testified that Albert and Herman were in other parts of the prison at the time of the murder. In contrast, it has been proven that state witnesses were bribed to lie under oath. Albert’s conviction has now been overturned three times, and Herman’s conviction is similarly under Federal Court scrutiny for evidence exposing prosecutorial misconduct and constitutional violations.
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Robert H. King: End 41 years of cruel and inhuman solitary confinement for Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3

11:19 am in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

 

My name is Robert H. King. I was released on February 8, 2001 after spending 31 years in prison – 29 of them in solitary confinement at the infamous Louisiana State Prison also known as ‘Angola’.

Confined there with me were Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace, the other two friends who make up ‘the Angola 3′. Herman and Albert have now spent 41 years in prison. And though they are no longer housed at Angola, both remain in solitary confinement at another prison – a punishment Amnesty has described as ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading’.

Prior to and since my release from prison, I have continued to campaign to free Herman and Albert. Last week, that campaign took a huge step forward with the ruling by a federal district court that there was racial discrimination in the selection of the jury foreperson prior to Albert’s re-trial in 1998.

Louisiana’s Attorney General has already filed his intention to appeal this against this ruling. But he can still do the right thing and end four decades of injustice by letting the ruling stand, clearing the way for Albert to be re-tried or simply walk free at last.

I know what being locked up in that cramped, dark cell does to a man, and I fear for my friend Albert whose physical and mental health is failing. The sense of how cruelly and unjustly Albert and the rest of us were treated still burns as strong as ever – as does my will to end their ordeal.

This isn’t the first or even the second time Albert’s conviction has been overturned. Previously judges have cited racial discrimination, misconduct by the prosecution and inadequate defense in their rulings. There is also troubling evidence that a key eyewitness against Albert had been bribed, and no physical evidence linking him to the murder has ever been found.

However, I also know how many of you share my sense of injustice and that we can count on your ongoing support. When I spoke to Albert last week he asked me to pass on his gratitude to his ‘legions of supporters’ across the world.

Wednesday, April 17 will mark the 41st anniversary of our incarceration in Angola. Please help ensure that this year it is a day of hope – or even freedom – for my friend, Albert Woodfox.

Power to the people!

As ever,

Robert H. King
The only freed member of the Angola 3

 
**Please support Albert Woodfox by sending an email to Attorney General Caldwell, via Amnesty International’s online action page!

Louisiana Attorney General Says Angola 3 “Have Never Been Held in Solitary Confinement”

8:31 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

March 21 article by James Ridgeway and Jean Casella, reprinted from Solitary Watch

James “Buddy” Caldwell, attorney general of the state of Louisiana, has released a statement saying unequivocally that Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, the two still-imprisoned members of the Angola 3, “have never been held in solitary confinement while in the Louisiana penal system.”

In fact, Wallace, now 71, and Woodfox, 66, have been in solitary for nearly 41 years, quite possibly longer than any other human beings on the planet. They were placed in solitary following the 1972 killing of a young corrections officer at Angola, and except for a few brief periods, they have remained in isolation ever since.

The statement from Caldwell follows on the heels of a ruling by a federal District Court judge in New Orleans, overturning Albert Woodfox’s conviction for the third time–in this instance, on the grounds that there had been racial bias in the selection of grand jury forepersons in Louisiana at the time of his indictment. Subsequently, Amnesty International, along with other activists, mounted a campaign urging the state of Louisiana not to appeal the federal court’s ruling. In the absence of an appeal, Woodfox would have to be given a new trial or released.

Caldwell’s statement–which was rather mysteriously sent out to an email list that included numerous prisoners’ rights advocates who have supported the Angola 3–begins: “Thank you for your interest in the ambush, savage attack and brutal murder of Officer Brent Miller at Louisiana State Penitentiary (LSP) on April 17, 1972. Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace committed this murder, stabbing and slicing Miller over 35 times.”

Caldwell clearly states that he has every intention of appealing the District Court’s decision to the notoriously conservative Fifth Circuit: “We feel confident that we will again prevail at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, if we do not, we are fully prepared and willing to retry this murderer again.” Caldwell asserts that the evidence against Woodfox is ”overpowering”: “There are no flaws in our evidence and this case is very strong.”

These statements belie the fact that much of the evidence that led to Wallace and Woodfox’s conviction has since been called into question. In particular, the primary eyewitness was shown to have been bribed by prison officials into making statements against the two men. (For more details on the case, see our earlier reporting in Mother Joneshere, here, here, and here.) The two men believe that they were targeted for the murder, and have been held in solitary for four decades, because of their status as Black Panthers and their efforts to organize against prison conditions. (The third member of the Angola 3, Robert King, convicted of a separate prison murder, was released after 29 years in solitary when his conviction was overturned in 2001).

But Caldwell’s most controversial assertion is that Wallace and Woodfox’s conditions of confinement over the past 40 years do not qualify as solitary confinement:

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BREAKING: Amnesty International Launches New Online Campaign for Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3

2:49 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

Please take action here!
Today Amnesty International launched an online campaign asking Louisiana Attorney General James Caldwell to not appeal the District Court’s ruling to either release or retry Albert Woodfox, declaring: “After decades of injustice, let the Angola 3 ruling stand!”

Please support Albert by taking action, forwarding it to your email list and asking your networks to spread the word. Now is a critical time in the fight for Albert’s freedom. We want Caldwell’s office to be inundated with emails so he hears it loud and clear that the cycle of injustice and cruelty must end.
 
Introducing their online action campaign, Amnesty writes:

Albert Woodfox has spent nearly 41 years in solitary confinement in conditions that are cruel, inhuman and degrading. In 1972, he and two others were convicted of murdering a guard at Angola prison. The “Angola 3″ were sentenced to life imprisonment – although no physical evidence linked them to the crime and serious legal flaws came to light.

Albert Woodfox’s conviction has been overturned several times, but Louisiana Attorney General Caldwell has dogmatically appealed every ruling in Woodfox’s favor. On February 26, a federal district court ruled again to overturn the conviction. Call on Attorney General Caldwell not to appeal the ruling so that Woodfox can be retried or released.


Below is the full text of the email to AG Caldwell:

On February 26, Albert Woodfox’s conviction for the 1972 murder of a prison guard was overturned once again, this time on the basis of racial discrimination in the selection of the grand jury foreperson. I know that you have already indicated that you intend to appeal the ruling, but I write to you today with one simple request – make history. Let the federal district court’s ruling stand.

The court’s ruling lends weight to widespread concerns that there have been significant flaws in the legal processes that have kept both Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace behind bars. These flaws include inadequate legal counsel, prosecutorial misconduct, lack of physical evidence, potentially exculpatory evidence lost by the State, evidence that the key eyewitness testimony was paid for in bribes by the State, other eyewitnesses retracting their testimony, and now racial discrimination. To appeal this latest ruling would compound injustice and delay the legal process by years, as the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals would have to rule before justice could be served.

I am also deeply concerned that, since his conviction, Albert Woodfox has been held in conditions that can only be described as cruel, inhuman and degrading. He has been denied access to work, group activities and rehabilitation programs. The negative physical and psychological effects of these conditions have taken a heavy toll on the 66 year old.

The State should move to either retry Albert Woodfox, or to release him. To delay the legal process by appealing this ruling would be both cruel and unnecessary. Please break the cycle of injustice and cruelty. Let the ruling stand.


(Featured below is the full text of Amnesty’s earlier statement, released the day of Albert Woodfox’s ruling.)

 

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA
PRESS RELEASE

27 February 2013

State of Louisiana Must Not Appeal Federal Ruling Overturning Conviction in Angola 3 Case

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @AIUSAmedia

(BATON ROUGE) – Amnesty International called on Louisiana Attorney General James Caldwell today not to appeal a federal court ruling overturning the conviction of Albert Woodfox of the ‘Angola 3’ for the second-degree murder of a prison guard in 1972. Amnesty International has raised serious human rights concerns over the case for many years.

In a ruling on Tuesday, Judge James Brady of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana found that racial discrimination lay behind the under-representation of African- Americans selected to serve as grand jury forepersons in the jurisdiction in which Woodfox, 66, who is African-American, was retried after his original conviction was overturned in 1992.

Judge Brady found that the state had failed to meet its burden “to dispel the inference of intentional discrimination” indicated by the statistical evidence covering a 13-year period from 1980 to 1993 presented by Albert Woodfox’s lawyers. The state, Judge Brady found, had failed to show “racially neutral” reasons to explain the under- representation of African-Americans selected as grand jury foreperson during this period.

Woodfox was convicted in 1973 along with a second prisoner, Herman Wallace, of the murder of Brent Miller. This conviction was overturned in 1992, but Woodfox was re-indicted by grand jury in 1993 and convicted again at a 1998 trial, and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1999. In 2008, a U.S. District Court ruled that Woodfox had been denied his right to adequate assistance of counsel during the 1998 trial and should either be retried or set free. The court also found that evidence presented by Woodfox’s lawyers of discrimination in the selection of the grand jury foreperson warranted a federal evidentiary hearing. While the State appealed the District court for a retrial – and won – yesterday’s ruling from the evidentiary hearing, once again sees the conviction overturned.

Amnesty International has repeatedly expressed concern that many legal aspects of this case are troubling: no physical evidence links Woodfox and Wallace to the murder, potentially exculpatory DNA evidence was lost by the state, and their conviction was based on questionable testimony – much of which subsequently retracted by witnesses. In recent years, evidence has emerged that the main eyewitness was bribed by prison officials into giving statements against the men. Both men have robustly denied over the years any involvement in the murder.

Woodfox has been held since his conviction over 40 years ago in solitary confinement. The extremely harsh conditions he has endured, including being confined for 23 hours a day, inadequate access to exercise, social interaction and no access to work, education, or rehabilitation have had physical and psychological consequences. Throughout his incarceration, Woodfox has been denied any meaningful review of the reasons for being kept in isolation; and records indicate that he hasn’t committed any disciplinary infractions for decades, nor, according to prison mental health records, is he a threat to himself or others. Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the authorities that both he and Wallace be removed from such conditions which the organization believes can only be described as cruel, inhuman and degrading.

“The fact that Woodfox’s conviction has been overturned again gives weight to Amnesty International’s longstanding concerns that the original legal process was flawed,” said Tessa Murphy, an Amnesty researcher.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists, and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth, and dignity are denied.

Amnesty Intl. urges the State of Louisiana to not appeal Albert Woodfox’s overturned conviction

2:50 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

In response to Judge Brady’s ruling this week that overturned Albert Woodfox’s conviction for a third time, Amnesty International has released a new statement calling on the Louisiana Attorney General to not appeal Brady’s ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court. The complete Amnesty statement is reprinted below.

Once again, we want to thank A3 supporters for all of the help in getting us this far. This is now a critical moment and in the coming days we will keep you updated on further developments.

–The International Coalition to Free the Angola 3

 

 

(AI statement reprinted in full below)

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
PUBLIC STATEMENT

AI index: AMR 51/010/2013
27 February 2013

USA: Amnesty International urges State not to appeal as Albert Woodfox’s conviction overturned again

Amnesty International is urging the Attorney General of Louisiana not to appeal a federal court ruling overturning the conviction of Albert Woodfox of the “Angola 3′ for the second-degree murder of a prison guard in 1972. This case, litigated for over four decades, has raised serious human rights concerns.

In his ruling on 26 February, which followed an evidentiary hearing in May 2012, District Judge James Brady of the US District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana found that racial discrimination lay behind the under-representation of African Americans selected to serve as grand jury forepersons in the jurisdiction in which Albert Woodfox, who is African American, was retried after his original conviction was overturned in 1992.

Judge Brady found that the State had failed to meet its burden “to dispel the inference of intentional discrimination” indicated by the statistical evidence covering a 13-year period from 1980 to 1993 presented by Albert Woodfox’s lawyers. The State, Judge Brady found, had failed to show “racially neutral” reasons to explain the under-representation of African Americans selected as grand jury foreperson during this period.

Albert Woodfox was convicted in 1973 along with a second prisoner, Herman Wallace, of the murder of Brent Miller. This conviction was overturned in 1992, but Albert Woodfox was re-indicted by grand jury in 1993 and convicted again at a 1998 trial, and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1999. In 2008 a US District Court ruled that Albert Woodfox had been denied his right to adequate assistance of counsel during the 1998 trial and should either be retried or set free. The court also found that evidence presented by Woodfox’s lawyers of discrimination in the selection of the grand jury foreperson warranted a federal evidentiary hearing. While the State appealed the District court for a retrial — and won, yesterday’s ruling from the evidentiary hearing, once again sees the conviction overturned.

The organization has repeatedly expressed concern that many legal aspects of this case are troubling: no physical evidence links Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace to the murder, potentially exculpatory DNA evidence was lost by the State, their conviction was based on questionable testimony — much of which subsequently retracted by witnesses, and in recent years, evidence has emerged that the main eyewitness was bribed by prison officials into giving statements against the men. Both men have robustly denied over the years any involvement in the murder.

Albert Woodfox, now 66, has been held since his conviction over 40 years ago in solitary confinement. The extremely harsh conditions he has endured, including 23 hour cellular confinement, inadequate access to exercise, social interaction and no access to work, education or rehabilitation programmes have had negative physical and psychological consequences. Throughout his incarceration he has been denied any meaningful review of the reasons for being kept in isolation; and records indicate that he hasn’t committed any disciplinary infractions for decades, nor, according to prison mental health records, is he a threat to himself or others. Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the authorities that both he and Herman Wallace be removed from such conditions which the organization believes can only be described as cruel, inhuman and degrading.

That Albert Woodfox’s conviction has been overturned again gives weight to the organization’s concerns that the original legal process was flawed. Amnesty International urges the State desist from appealing this latest ruling.