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Panthers in the Hole: French Angola 3 Book Illustrates US Prison Crisis –An interview with Nicolas Krameyer of Amnesty International France

4:36 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

Panthers in the Hole: French Angola 3 Book Illustrates US Prison Crisis

–An interview with Nicolas Krameyer of Amnesty International France

By Angola 3 News

Amnesty International France and La Boîte à Bulles have published a 128-page French language graphic novel entitled Panthers in the Hole. The book’s co-authors David Cénou and Bruno Cénou present with visual art what Amnesty France describes as “la tragique histoire des Trois d’Angola” (the tragic story of the Angola 3).
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Robert H. King, Herman Wallace, and Albert Woodfox are the trio of Black Panther political prisoners known collectively as the Angola 3. On October 1, 2013 Herman Wallace was dramatically released from prison after 41 years in solitary confinement. At the time of his release, he had been fighting terminal liver cancer for several months. Three days later, on Oct. 4, Herman was surrounded by loved ones as he passed on at a friend’s house in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Albert Woodfox remains in solitary confinement to this day and with only temporary respite from routine body cavity searches pending an upcoming ruling by the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. On April 17, 2014, marking 42 years since Albert Woodfox was first placed in solitary,  Amnesty International renewed its call for his immediate release (view Amnesty’s statement and essay) and today continues their online campaign (sign the petition here).

Robert King spent 29 years in continuous solitary confinement until his conviction was overturned and he was released from Louisiana’s infamous Angola State Prison in 2001. Himself the subject of a recent Canadian film, King spoke in Paris, France this past May at an event celebrating the release of Panthers in the Hole and has traveled Europe many times while on earlier speaking tours.

To further discuss the release of Panthers in the Hole and Amnesty France’s broader support for Albert Woodfox and the Angola 3, we interviewed NicolasKrameyer, who is head of the Individuals at Risk / Human Rights Defenders Program for Amnesty International France.

Angola 3 News:         Can you please tell us about your recent work related to the Angola 3?

Nicolas Krameyer:    Amnesty France has made the Angola 3 (A3) a priority campaign.

We included Albert and Herman’s case as part of our biggest annual event, known as Write for Rights in December 2012. In just a few weeks, at least 50,000 supporters signed the petition for an end to their solitary confinement.

We also organized a solidarity campaign where activists sent Herman and Albert messages of support. The letter-writers quickly received very strong and moving answers from Herman and Albert, which we then shared among other activists.

A few months later, we invited Robert King for a two-week speaking tour in France and Brussels, which gave national media coverage to the A3 and the widespread use of solitary confinement in the USA. Both the A3 case and the issue of solitary confinement were totally unknown to the general public. Even the partners and institutions with whom we normally work on human rights activism were not familiar with these issues.

A3N:   What do you think are the main reasons for the French public’s interest?

NK:     Beside the widespread publicity, I think there are 3 key factors that explain why so many people feel now concerned about the Angola 3 case:

(1) The monstrous nature of the case. There are very few examples in the world of such a blatant human rights violation for such a long period of time: more than 4 decades!

(2) The audience could follow the different steps of the clear campaign of vengeance lead by the local Louisiana authorities, like when the prosecutor appealed Albert’s third overturned conviction, or in October 2013 when the State authorities did their most to impede Herman’s release despite his health. That clearly angered people here in France, and one indicator of this was that journalists were publishing articles every time something new happened, which is quite rare.

(3) Lastly, this has been made possible because of Robert’s presence and strength, which he clearly communicated to all types of audiences, from the media to French officials and activists.

A3N:   Overall, how do you think Amnesty France’s A3 and anti-solitary campaigning has impacted France?

NK:     Previously, solitary confinement was not really considered a big human rights issue, except for some rare experts or USA specialists here. Guantanamo and death penalty continue to be the two main public topics in regards to human rights violations known in France. The A3 and Robert King gave a face to that common practice of cruel and inhumane treatment in the USA.

Even if we can’t go into details here, we know that probably for first time, French and EU governments officially raised this issue with their US counterparts.

A3N:   Can you tell us more about the new graphic novel, entitled Panthers in the Hole? How has it been received since being released in May? Read the rest of this entry →

(PHOTO: Artwork displayed at Herman Wallace’s memorial service. See more photos of the memorial service by Ann Harkness.)

Angola 3: Legal Update, Upcoming Events with Robert King, and Feb. 15 Vigil

9:34 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

 

As we begin this month, we’ve learned the civil case jointly filed by Robert King, Herman Wallace, and Albert Woodfox has been frozen as the State once again appeals a federal decision not in their favor, and we all still anxiously word as to whether Albert’s conviction will be vacated once and for all.  On February 19th, Albert turns 67, and the 26th will mark one year since his conviction was overturned for a third time, but somehow, despite decades of struggle and mountains of evidence pointing to innocence, he still shivers in a solitary cell.

Rather than settling in and slowing down to wait out the new delays, we must instead follow Robert and Albert’s examples and use this down time to stand up!

After nearly a year of protests that ultimately brought him back into court on this issue he first took on in the 1970s, Albert succeeded on Friday in putting a stop to the invasive, dehumanizing routine strip searches he’s been forced to endure as often as 6 times a day since last Spring.  Meanwhile Robert has never been busier, touring around the world, gathering support for Albert and spreading the word far and wide about the many unjust consequences of a broken criminal justice system.

Judge Brady commented when reaching his decision to stop strip searching Albert day and night, that sometimes honoring fundamental Constitutional rights better serves the public interest than even well meaning security policies put in place to fight threats where none are likely to exist.  As supporters everywhere prepare to join together in quiet solidarity with Albert on February 15th to contemplate freedom for those wrongfully convicted and shut away in isolation, perhaps we should all take some time to reflect what it really means to “better serve the public interest”–and then, like the A3, waste no time transforming those reflections into action.

Fundamental Constitutional Rights: Albert Woodfox’s Routine Strip Searches Have Been Halted by the Court

On the night of January 31, Judge Brady granted Albert’s plea for a preliminary injunction-putting an end, at least for now, to the invasive, dehumanizing strip and cavity searches that Albert has been subjected to every time he leaves or enters his solitary cell since May of last year.

As you may remember, it was a lawsuit that Albert himself filed and won in 1978 which put an end to the demeaning practice if inmates were moving within the institution while restrained and under observation, unless specifically suspected of carrying contraband.  Rather than petition the state courts to uphold this decree, Albert’s legal team sought relief by entering their complaint as another particularized example of the cruel and unusual treatment that has characterized his nearly 42 years in solitary.

A prolonged legal battle ensued over whether a federal judge has jurisdiction to enforce a state issued consent decree – a line of reasoning that Brady did not find persuasive:  “The Defendants have asserted a whole host of arguments, most of them completely lacking in merit, contending that this Court lacks supplemental jurisdiction to enforce the state court issued consent decree.”

In his ruling Friday, however, Judge Brady sidestepped the jurisdiction issue altogether by finding that routine searches were not shown to be “necessary” or “justified” for security as is required constitutionally of such policies, and therefore “Woodfox’s human dignity [as] protected by his Fourth Amendment rights” outweighs the “legitimate penological interest” in this circumstance.

“Considering the facts presented, the Court finds that conducting visual body cavity searches of Woodfox based solely on his entering or leaving a segregated area is unnecessary given his age, housing in complete isolation under constant supervision, and clean disciplinary record. Furthermore, the Court finds that the response to fighting contraband is unnecessary given the infrequent reported incidents of contraband and the Defendants’ own expert’s conclusion that the incidents of contraband are miniscule.”

Judge Brady’s ruling provides a rare and striking statement of the gravitas that should be given to Constitutional protections, even while in prison, and especially while in a prison environment as restrictive as solitary: “While embarrassment or inconvenience standing alone may not rise to the level of irreparable harm, continued deprivations of one’s constitutional rights unquestionably does.”

He continues: “though the public interest is served by preventing the flow of contraband in our prison institutions, there is little to no risk that Woodfox would become a possessor or purveyor of contraband.” And therefore “the public interest would be better served by the preservation and protection of a person’s fundamental Fourth Amendment rights.”

The Court has given both parties 7 days to craft a new plan that both satisfies the need for searches in instances where contraband can more realistically be introduced (when returning from contact visits, trips outside the prison, or when there is “specific and particular showing of reasonable suspicion” of wrongdoing), and passes Constitutional muster.

Although the State has no immediate legal avenues for appeal of this decision, which in theory bans such routine searches until the civil suit is settled, we do expect them to try their hardest to reverse it through every creative means available.  We will update everyone once the specifics have been worked out and at least some instances of this latest pernicious affront to his dignity have ended.

Judge Brady Grants Stay in Civil Case Pending State’s 5th Circuit Appeal

In less exciting news, Judge Brady has granted the State’s request to stay progress in the civil case until the 5th Circuit decides whether or not to uphold his ruling denying the officials at David Wade and Hunt Correctional Centers qualified immunity from prosecution for their role in continuing to subject Albert and Herman to extended solitary without meaningful review after being transferred from Angola to their prisons.

Last fall the Hunt and Wade defendants were officially added to the case, but they then quickly claimed immunity.  Judge Brady denied their claim, but they’ve appealed that decision to the 5th Circuit.  Albert’s team had hoped to proceed with discovery and trial prep while the 5th deliberates, but Judge Brady, while “sympathetic” to keeping the June 2014 trial date on track, ruled that the litigation must wait until the 5th makes their determination.

So here’s hoping for a swift, just decision from the 5th on this and Albert’s habeas!

Robert King Touring the US and Canada

(Below is a listing of upcoming events with Robert King. Click on the individual event’s date for more info.)

Feb. 11:  The California State Legislative Hearings on Solitary Confinement (Sacramento, CA)

Feb. 14:  The  American Association for the Advanced Sciences Annual Meeting (Chicago, IL) speaking on the panel “Solitary Confinement: Legal, Clinical, and Neurobiological Perspectives”

Feb. 16:  The Toronto Black Film Festival (Toronto, Canada), speaking at the screening of “Hard Time.”

Feb. 21:  Fade to Back (Montreal, Canada), speaking at the screening of “Hard Time.”

March 10:  The Clemson Institute for Ethics Presidential Colloquium at Clemson University (Clemson, SC) speaking on “Vulnerability and Responsibility.” When available, more information about this event will be posted at www.angola3news.com.

March 29:  Robert King at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, CT, “One Nation-Under Surveillance: A One-Day Conference about Building Networks of Solidarity in Defiance of NSA Spying & the Erosion of Democratic Rights.”

If the SHU Fits: February 15 National Prayer / Meditation Vigil, 5pm – Wherever You Are

Rev. Dr. Patricia Teel Bates, recently interviewed by Angola 3 News, is hosting a meditation/prayer vigil on February 15 at 5 pm, at 5221 hwy 79 in Homer, Louisiana for Albert Woodfox and the many other citizens affected by the Louisiana Department of Corrections’ excessive and inhumane use of solitary confinement. Rev. Bates extends the call for others in the US and around the world to join the spirit of the Homer vigil by taking a stance against the practice of solitary confinement where they live by having a meditation/prayer vigil in their own community, at 5pm on February 15.

Statement From Rev. Dr. Patricia Teel Bates

Louisiana leads the nation and the world in incarcerating its citizens per capita. Are we the worst of the worst? One of the State’s practices for “controlling” its so-called worst trouble makers is to confine them in solitary units. This practice of isolating offenders from other human beings has undergone study by other states including Mississippi, which has significantly reduced its use of solitary following the study. Other states such as New York are also questioning past practices relating to use of solitary.

As a member of the ecumenical faith community of Louisiana, I call on the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections to examine its use of solitary units as other states have done.  Look at the record: How many suicides are committed or narrowly averted in solitary, compared to general populations of offenders?  Considering that the vast majority of offenders will reenter our neighborhoods and homes, how helpful is solitary/isolation in preparing them to become productive citizens and family members?

Look at the record of those in isolation for extended periods and consider the traumatic injury done to the offender and to society.  Louisiana has a program known as Victim-Offender Dialogue, which aids the victim in telling the offender the harm that has been done in order to promote healing for the victim and to help the offender make amends to the extent possible. How does the use of solitary contribute to the state’s VOD program?

If we believe in the sacred worth of every human being, no matter the wrongs committed, how can we justify treating any human being inhumanely, as solitary does? When we do, our own humanity is diminished. Our system of justice is flawed.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” –MLK Jr.

Albert’s Birthday Reminder:
Send Love, but not CDs or Stamps

As Albert’s 67th birthday approaches, on February 19, we want to remind supporters that he is not allowed to receive stamps or cds.  Cards and messages are always the best gift, but if you want to send more, the best way is to give some funds to his www.jpay.com account (#00072148) so he can buy stamps, cds or other personal items from the prison store.

Through jpay, he can receive emails, although any photos sent will be black and white. If you send an email, jpay will ask if you want to pay extra for him to have money to respond via email. However, Albert is unfortunately not allowed to send email, so do not choose this option.

His mailing address is:

Albert Woodfox
#72148
David Wade Correctional Center, N1 A3
670 Bell Hill Rd.

 

A Moral Outrage: An interview with Rev. Dr. Patricia Bates

1:14 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

Albert Woodfox’s 41 Years in Solitary Confinement, Despite Three Overturned Convictions 

This past Fall, Herman Wallace of the Angola 3 made news headlines around the world when his conviction was overturned and he was dramatically released from prison after 41 years in solitary confinement. At the time of his release on October 1, 2013 he had been fighting terminal liver cancer for several months. Three days later, on Oct. 4, Herman was surrounded by loved ones as he passed on at a friend’s house in New Orleans, Louisiana.

As reported by Democracy Now!, one of the final things that Herman said was, “I am free. I am free.” Twelve years previously in 2001, after 29 years in solitary confinement, Robert H. King was the first of the Angola 3 to be released. Today, Albert Woodfox remains the sole Angola 3 member still in prison. Currently housed in solitary confinement and forced to endure routine body cavity searches at David Wade Correctional Center in Homer, LA, Albert’s conviction has now been overturned three times.

On Oct. 15, Amnesty International declared: “Herman died a free man. Let’s help Albert live as one.” Amnesty’s call to action quoted a message from Herman released during his final few weeks: “I want the world to know that I am an innocent man and that Albert Woodfox is innocent as well … The state may have stolen my life, but my spirit will continue to struggle along with Albert and the many comrades that have joined us along the way here in the belly of the beast.”

For several years, Amnesty International had already been calling for both Albert and Herman’s release from solitary confinement, culminating with the hand-delivery of a 67,000 signature petition at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge, LA on April 17, 2012 (watch video). When Albert’s conviction was overturned for a third time on February 26, 2013, Amnesty began an online campaign directed towards Louisiana Attorney General James Caldwell, urging him to not appeal the overturned conviction. Not surprisingly, AG Caldwell appealed the overturned conviction. Somewhat unexpectedly, AG Caldwell also sent an email to each person that had signed onto Amnesty’s campaign audaciously claiming that both Albert and Herman “have never been in solitary confinement,” evoking responses from Amnesty International, Robert King. and MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry.

In their statement, Amnesty also cited “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.”

Public pressure supporting Albert and Herman intensified on June 24 when we received the sad news about Herman being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. Amnesty responded by urging supporters to send personal letters to Herman, and by calling for his release from prison on humanitarian grounds.

On July 12, a letter citing the Angola 3 case was sent to the Department of Justice by Congressmen John Conyers, Jerrold Nadler, Robert C. “Bobby” Scott,  and Cedric Richmond, calling for an investigation of the Louisiana prison system. That same day, just hours after the letter’s release, LA’s Hunt prison reduced Herman Wallace’s classification from maximum to medium security and transferred him out of solitary confinement into the more humane conditions of a 10-bunk dorm inside the prison hospital, where he had access to a day room, and did not have to wear leg irons. Because of the transfer, Herman’s quality of life was improved during his last few months.

On Oct. 7, just three days after Herman died, The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Méndez, called for Albert Woodfox’s immediate release from solitary, declaring that “four decades in solitary confinement can only be described as torture.” A week later, on Oct. 15, Amnesty International escalated their campaign supporting Albert by now calling for his immediate release from prison altogether. On Oct. 21, the petition first started by Amnesty in February, 2013 was hand-delivered with over 50,000 signatures urging the Attorney General to drop the appeal of Albert’s overturned conviction. This petition remains active today for those who have not yet joined Amnesty’s call to action.

At an unrelated hearing on Nov. 13, Albert testified before the same US District Judge James Brady, who has twice overturned Albert’s conviction. As Lauren McGaughy reported for the Times-Picayune, this hearing was for Albert “to argue against what he says are daily strip and cavity searches he undergoes at the hands of prison guards. Woodfox and his legal team say the searches are in violation of a 1978 consent decree issued by then-U.S. District Court Judge Daniel W. LeBlanc that ruled these searches violated the rights of inmates and must be curtailed and, in many cases, ceased.”

An editorial written for the Times-Picayune by Jasmine Heiss of Amnesty International, remarked that “in a strange twist of irony, it was Mr. Woodfox’s previous lawsuit against the state that set this precedent.” Heiss wrote further that the 1978 precedent resulting from Albert’s lawsuit, “which lasted more than 30 years, came to an abrupt end when Judge LeBlanc died in March, and the strip and cavity searches quickly resumed both for Mr. Woodfox and others housed on his tier at David Wade Correctional Center. Mr. Woodfox endures strip searches as often as six times a day. He and his attorneys tried to resolve this without litigation for months to no avail.  Now they have turned to the court to step in.” Judge Brady’s ruling on this matter is still pending, while Albert remains in solitary and the routine strip searches continue.

It was against this backdrop that Amnesty once again called for Albert’s release when on January 7, oral arguments were held before the 5th Circuit Court regarding Albert’s third overturned conviction. At the press conference held outside the court building, speaking on behalf of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) was Rev. Dr. Patricia Teel Bates, a professor emeritus of English who taught at Louisiana State University in Shreveport for 32 years. Additionally, she is an ordained United Methodist minister serving in Homer, Louisiana through Seeds of Light, a nonprofit prison ministry she founded.

Standing outside the Fifth Circuit Court building, Rev. Dr. Bates declared:

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Albert Woodfox’s Hour in the 5th: A reportback on the Jan. 7 oral arguments

2:18 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

Gavel

An update on the Albert Woodfox trial.

MEDIA:  Lauren McGaughy, Times-Picayune  II  Daily Journal / Associated Press  II  UPI

VIEW / DOWNLOAD:  A3 info flyer for Jan. 7  II  Listen to audio from the oral arguments  II  Rev. Patricia Bates / NRCAT statement

For those who were unable to attend, Albert’s oral argument in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, defending Judge Brady’s decision to overturn his conviction for a third time, is now complete (click here to listen).  As expected, the proceedings were brief and rather mystifying.  It was clear that most of the judges had already spent a great deal of time reviewing and considering the case, and were just tying up a few arcane legal loose ends.

The State’s Attorney General Buddy Caldwell watched carefully as his team urged the Court to reverse Judge Brady’s decision and reinstate Albert’s conviction based on their now overruled version of the statistical story, and a misplaced deference to the broad powers given by the AEDPA.  As you may recall, the AEDPA is a federal law used as the primary reason for reinstating Albert’s conviction in 2010.  It allows Federal Courts to defer judgment to previous Louisiana rulings against Albert if those rulings were not “unreasonable” or “contrary to clearly established federal law” – an insidiously squishy standard.

Albert’s supporters filled the courtroom completely and his legal team deftly rebutted the State’s claims and fielded a handful of questions from the 3-judge panel, which included Judges Jolly and Higginbotham (both Reagan appointees), and Judge Southwick (a George W. Bush appointee).  Judge Jolly was tied up in transit so participated only by phone and did not ask any questions of either side.

A decision is expected in coming months.  Although it took the 5th Circuit almost a year and a half to rule last time, we are more confident than ever that a swift decision will soon come in Albert’s favor, finally releasing this innocent man from the solitary cell he was unjustly relegated to now nearly 42 long years ago.

The arguments were covered by the AP and in the Times Picayune both before and after.  We will update you as soon as we have any additional information.

With hope for freedom.

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On the eve of Albert Woodfox’s 5th Circuit oral arguments, Amnesty International demands his release

1:14 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

Featured below are statements released today by both Amnesty USA and Amnesty International’s Media Centre, on the eve of Albert Woodfox’s oral arguments before the Fifth Circuit Court in New Orleans on Tuesday, January 7.

If you have not yet done so, please join Amnesty International and sign the petition calling on Albert’s immediate release.

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(PHOTO: Artwork displayed at Herman Wallace’s memorial service, with Herman calling for Albert’s release. See more photos of the memorial service by Ann Harkness.)

 

Amnesty International USA Calls on Louisiana to Release Albert Woodfox

Contact: Natalie Butz, nbutz@aiusa.org, 202-675-8761, @AIUSAmedia

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – On the eve of a federal court of appeals hearing on the case of Albert Woodfox, Amnesty International USA is calling on authorities in Louisiana to immediately release Woodfox from prison where he has spent over four decades in solitary confinement.

“Louisiana cannot extend the abuses and injustice against Albert Woodfox another day,” said Steven W. Hawkins, executive director, Amnesty International USA. “Louisiana authorities are leading a campaign of vengeance instead of upholding justice. Keeping Woodfox in solitary confinement for over four decades is a dark stain on human rights in the United States and globally. Louisiana must withdraw its legal appeal and allow the federal court ruling to stand. Should this not occur, the Court of Appeal should rule in the interests of justice and pave the way for Albert Woodfox’s release.”

On January 7, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals (the federal court that oversees appeals in Louisiana and other states) will rule whether to uphold a federal district judge’s ruling issued last February that overturned Woodfox’s conviction. The state of Louisiana has appealed asking for the federal court to reinstate the sentence.

“The state of Louisiana’s action is not in the interests of justice,” said Tessa Murphy, USA campaigner at Amnesty International. “Its insistence on keeping Albert Woodfox behind bars after decades in solitary confinement amounts to a campaign of vengeance, paid with taxpayers’ money. The conviction has been overturned three times in what is a deeply flawed case, yet Louisiana has opposed every remedy ordered by the courts.”

Albert Woodfox was placed in solitary confinement over 41 years ago in Louisiana State Penitentiary, known to many as “Angola.” During this time, he has been confined to a small cell for 23 hours a day, denied access to meaningful social interaction and rehabilitation programs.

Prison records show that Woodfox has not committed any serious disciplinary infractions for decades and that he doesn’t pose a threat to himself or others.

He and Herman Wallace were both convicted of the 1972 murder of prison guard Brent Miller. There was no physical evidence to link them to the crime and their convictions relied primarily on the dubious testimony of a sole eyewitness who received favorable treatment, and was eventually pardoned, for his testimony. The case against them was based on flawed evidence and riddled with procedural errors that have been extensively documented over the years.

Both men robustly denied any involvement in the crime. They believe they were falsely implicated in the murder because of their political activism in prison as members of the Black Panther Party.

Herman Wallace was released in October 2013 just days before he died of liver cancer. A federal judge overturned his conviction on the basis of the systematic exclusion of women from the grand jury during his 1974 trial.

“A remedy to the injustice inflicted on Albert Woodfox by the state is long overdue,” said Murphy. “Herman Wallace gained his freedom only to die within days. Justice must not again be so cruelly delayed.”

After the death of Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox’s co-defendant in the “Angola 3″ case, Amnesty International launched a campaign calling on the state of Louisiana to release Albert Woodfox from prison by means of withdrawing its appeal against the U.S. District Court’s ruling.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million members 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.

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USA: End four-decade campaign of vengeance and release Albert Woodfox
(Released by the Amnesty International Media Centre on January 6, 2014)

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Amnesty International says: Drop the vengeance! Free Albert Woodfox! (oral arguments on Tuesday, Jan. 7)

9:37 am in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

Featured below is the full text of an action alert for Albert Woodfox, released today by Amnesty International, timed to build public pressure in the days leading up to Albert’s oral arguments in New Orleans on Tuesday, January 7.

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(PHOTO: Artwork displayed at Herman Wallace’s memorial service. See more photos of the memorial service by Ann Harkness.)

TODAY’S ACTION ALERT FROM AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL:

 

This could be the end of Albert Woodfox’s 40-year plus prison nightmare, if you act now.

On Tuesday morning, Jan. 7, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans will hold a hearing to determine Albert’s fate. Will they finally act on the 2013 ruling that overturned his conviction and set him free, or shut the door and send him back to another unthinkable year in solitary confinement?

Federal courts have overturned Albert’s conviction 3 times. The state of Louisiana has appealed 3 times.

Enough is enough.

Tell the state of Louisiana to end its campaign of vengeance and let Albert go.

Nothing can justify the cruel treatment that Louisiana authorities have inflicted on Albert, one of the famed Angola 3 prisoners.

For decades, the authorities have punished Albert with solitary confinement. He’s survived 40 years living in a tiny cell for 23 hours a day, denied meaningful human contact and rehabilitation.

In a deeply flawed verdict, Albert was convicted of murder even though no physical evidence ties him to the crime, the state lost potentially exculpatory evidence, and authorities bribed their key witness.

Albert maintains he was put in solitary confinement in retaliation for organizing prisoners against segregation and other abuses in Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as “Angola”.

It’s simply unconscionable for the state to hold this man one day longer.

Please help Amnesty International demand freedom for Albert Woodfox.

Please take action before the Jan. 7 hearing.

Thanks for standing by Albert, and for all you do to defend human dignity for all.

Sincerely,

Jasmine Heiss
Campaigner, Individuals and Communities at Risk
Amnesty International USA

January NYC screening of ‘Hard Time,’ new film about Robert King of Angola 3

1:03 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

(Above is a video of an A3 event with Robert King last year)

The new Canadian film about Robert H. King of the Angola 3, Hard Time, will be shown by New Filmmakers New York at 6pm on Wednesday, January 15, The screening will be held at 32 Second Avenue (at 2nd street) in New York City. Learn more about Robert King at www.kingsfreelines.com, and read his autobiography. which includes this short description of his book From the Bottom of the Heap:

In 1970, a jury convicted Robert Hillary King of a crime he did not commit and sentenced him to 35 years in prison. He became a member of the Black Panther Party while in Angola State Penitentiary, successfully organizing prisoners to improve conditions. In return, prison authorities beat him, starved him, and gave him life without parole after framing him for a second crime. He was thrown into solitary confinement, where he remained in a six by nine foot cell for 29 years as one of the Angola 3. In 2001, the state grudgingly acknowledged his innocence and set him free. This is his story.

It begins at the beginning: born black, born poor, born in Louisiana in1942, King journeyed to Chicago as a hobo at the age of 15. He married and had a child, and briefly pursued a semi-pro boxing career to help provide for his family. Just a teenager when he entered the Louisiana penal system for the first time, King tells of his attempts to break out of this system, and his persistent pursuit of justice where there is none.

Yet this remains a story of inspiration and courage, and the triumph of the human spirit. The conditions in Angola almost defy description, yet King never gave up his humanity, or the work towards justice for all prisoners that he continues to do today. From the Bottom of the Heap, so simply and humbly told, strips bare the economic and social injustices inherent in our society, while continuing to be a powerful literary testimony to our own strength and capacity to overcome.

Ron Harpelle HARD TIME (2012, 41 minutes, video)

Hard Time is a film about Robert Hillary King of the Angola 3. King was a political prisoner who spent 29 years in solitary confinement in the infamous Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. The film focuses on racism and human rights in the U.S. penal system, and draws attention to the plight of Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, the other members of the Angola 3, who have been held in solitary confinement for more than 40 years. Together they formed they created a prison chapter of the Black Panther Party to fight for better conditions, security for inmates and justice behind bars.

ABOUT NEWFILMMAKERS NY (www.newfilmmakers.com)

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Join Us for Albert Woodfox’s Fifth Circuit Court Hearing in New Orleans Jan 7th

7:08 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

Please sign the Amnesty International petition demanding Albert’s release!

Judge's Gavel

Albert Woodfox’s next hearing begins January 4

Over the holiday, we learned that 2014 will begin with the final courtroom chapter of Albert Woodfox’s current struggle to finalize Judge Brady’s 2013 ruling which overturned his conviction for a third time based on a finding of racial discrimination in the selection of the grand jury foreperson.

On Tuesday morning, January 7th, 2014, a yet unnamed three judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans will hear oral arguments from the State of Louisiana about why they believe Albert’s conviction should be reinstated. Albert’s team will of course argue that Judge Brady’s ruling should stand.

The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday’s morning session beginning at 9am in the En Banc Courtroom (room 209 of the 5th Circuit at 600 Camp Street in New Orleans) and is open to the public.

The oral argument itself is a very short and formal process. Each side will make a short 20 min presentation and then the judges will ask questions for no more than a few hours.

Although last time we waited more than 15 months, decisions are usually issued in less than half that time, and we are hopeful that Albert will know his fate sooner than later this time around.

For those of you who were with us in March of 2009 when Albert’s second overturned conviction appeal was heard, you may remember that the US Court of Appeals has very strict rules.  Here is a reminder of what to expect if you do plan on attending:

  1. The courtroom only holds 50 people on a first come, first serve basis, so although the argument may not start right at 9am, it’s a good idea to get there early in the morning to make sure you get a seat.
  2. No buttons, T-shirts or signs of any kind are allowed inside the courthouse.
  3. Dress formally and expect to be searched.  No cellphones or electronic devices of any kind are allowed.
  4. Finally, Federal Marshals are allowed to remove spectators for even the most minor of perceived slights or disruptions.  So please be extra careful to not talk, whisper, or communicate with each other once you step foot in the courtroom.

Read the rest of this entry →

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  

Reports from Wednesday’s hearing for Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3, to end strip searches

7:58 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

As you may remember, Albert’s first hearing seeking to bring an end to the inhumane, abusive, and illegal routine strip searches he is subjected to daily was postponed.  Now, after months of legal wrangling, Albert’s hearing happened today, November 13th, in Court before Judge Brady in the Louisiana Middle District Court in Baton Rouge.  Albert was present and testified.

With any luck Albert and his legal team will convince Judge Brady to uphold the consent decree that came out of a 1978 lawsuit Albert himself filed and won — establishing such searches as illegal, unconstitutional, and against internal prison policy.

On October 21, the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 joined Amnesty International in delivering 50,000 signatures demanding Albert’s release to Governor Jindal’s office. Amnesty is still continuing their campaign, so if you have not done so, please sign the petition now and share it!
This morning the Times-Picayune published an Oped by Jasmine Heiss of Amnesty International, explaining that since March, the Louisiana corrections department has subjected “Mr. Woodfox to invasive strip and cavity searches every time he leaves his cell – when he goes to see the doctor, gets a haircut or uses the phone to call his lawyers.” Notably:

These searches are not only degrading, they’re illegal – and in a strange twist of irony, it was Mr. Woodfox’s previous lawsuit against the state that set this precedent.

In 1978, he sued the state and successfully put an end to the humiliating strip searches that he was forced to endure in the mid-1970s. Judge Daniel W. LeBlanc’s ruling established a precedent that holds these searches to be illegal, unconstitutional and against internal prison policy. According to Judge LeBlanc’s ruling, the prison “must curtail, and in certain instances cease, the routine requirement of anal examinations.”

That precedent, which lasted more than 30 years, came to an abrupt end when Judge LeBlanc died in March, and the strip and cavity searches quickly resumed both for Mr. Woodfox and others housed on his tier at David Wade Correctional Center. Mr. Woodfox endures strip searches as often as six times a day. He and his attorneys tried to resolve this without litigation for months to no avail.  Now they have turned to the court to step in. (read the full article here)

Along with this important oped, Times-Picayune writer Lauren McGaughy continued her excellent coverage of the Angola with a pre-hearing article published yesterday, that cites the request filed bu Woodfox’s lawyers:

“The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections has held Plaintiff Albert Woodfox…in solitary confinement for the past 41 years in violation of his constitutional rights,” the request for a temporary restraining order reads.

“In further violation of those rights, Defendants now strip search Plaintiff Woodfox and inspect his anus every time he enters or leaves his cell. These strip searches occur as often as six times a day.” (read the full article here)

This evening, McGaughy reported back from today’s hearing:

Testimony lasted all day Wednesday. In addition to Woodfox and Goodwin, David Wade guard Matthew Elmore and Pat Keohane, an expert for the state, also testified. At the end of the day, Judge Brady requested counsel file briefs detailing what would be the effects of adopting the 1978 consent decree approved under Judge LeBlanc.

Counsel for the plaintiff was given 30 days to complete the first brief, after which counsel for the defense was given 30 days to draft a response. Judge Brady will then issue a ruling.

[Woodfox's lawyer Sheridan] England, speaking after the hearing wrapped, said he was confident the judge would rule in his client’s favor: “I’m happy Mr. Woodfox got an opportunity to talk about the deplorable strip searches he’s made to undergo everyday. We’re confident the court will find they violate the law.” (read the full article here)