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"Barbaric Beyond Measure," NY Times Ediorial About Albert Woodfox's Four Decades in Solitary Confinement


US Politics & Gov't  (tags: abuse, americans, constitution, corruption, cover-up, crime, democrats, dishonesty, ethics, freedoms, GoodNews, goodnews, government, Govtfearmongering, healthcare, healthcare, news, politics, SupremeCourt, supremecourt, u.s., usa, war )

Angola
- 1279 days ago - nytimes.com
NYT: "Even comparatively brief solitary confinement can cause severe mental and emotional trauma; a United Nations expert has said that more than 15 days may amount to torture. When it is imposed for more than 40 years, it is barbaric beyond measure."



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Comments

Freya H (357)
Saturday November 22, 2014, 8:28 am
Solitary confinement should be declared unconstitutional because it is cruel and unusual punishment. Nobody deserves to suffer like this.
 

Angola T (397)
Saturday November 22, 2014, 8:49 am
Amnesty International's response to Fifth Circuit ruling:

USA: Albert Woodfox should be released after latest court ruling

A ruling by a federal appeals court in Louisiana yesterday affirming a decision by a lower court to overturn the conviction of Albert Woodfox, who has spent more than 40 years in isolation after a flawed murder trial, is a triumph for justice that comes decades late, said Amnesty International.

“After more than 40 years of tirelessly pursuing justice through the courts, Albert Woodfox must now be given his freedom,” said Tessa Murphy, USA Campaigner at Amnesty International. “The state should no longer impede justice but stand aside and allow this decision to stand.”

The conviction against Albert Woodfox had been overturned three times, the latest in 2013, but he remained in prison after the state of Louisiana appealed each ruling.

Yesterday, the federal judges ruled that he did not receive a fair re-trial in 1998 because of discrimination in the selection of the grand jury foreperson.

“He has been denied justice and detained for more than half of his life in a tiny cell after a conviction based on dubious evidence and testimonies. This injustice must end now. Albert Woodfox should be released from prison,” said Tessa Murphy.

Albert Woodfox was convicted, together with Herman Wallace, for the murder of a prison guard in the Louisiana State Penitentiary in 1972.

Albert Woodfox spent most of their time in prison confined in a small cell for 23 hours a day, denied access to meaningful social interaction and rehabilitation programmes. The same was true for the late Herman Wallace.

Like Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox has always denied any involvement in the crime and both said they were falsely implicated in the murder because of their political activism in prison as members of the Black Panther Party.

There was no physical evidence linking them to the crime and their convictions relied primarily on the dubious testimony of a sole eyewitness who received favourable treatment in prison in return 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.

Albert Woodfox’s co-defendant, Herman Wallace, was released from prison 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.
 

Angola T (397)
Saturday November 22, 2014, 8:51 am
Amnesty USA responds:

Amnesty International: Albert Woodfox Must Be Freed Following Appeals Court Decision

CONTACT: Amanda Simon, 212-633-4162; asimon@aiusa.org


(WASHINGTON, DC) —Yesterday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Louisiana affirmed a 2013 ruling overturning the conviction of Albert Woodfox of the ‘Angola 3.’ He is imprisoned for the second-degree murder of a prison guard in 1972, though he maintains his innocence. Amnesty International has raised serious human rights concerns over the case for many years and applauds this latest development– though it comes after decades of injustice.

The state of Louisiana had immediately appealed the 2013 ruling, and Albert languished in solitary for nearly two years, until the appeals court’s decision, yesterday.

“Albert Woodfox has endured the unthinkable. For more than four decades he has survived in conditions the UN’s top expert on torture has said can amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” said Jasmine Heiss, Senior Campaigner at Amnesty International USA. “The Fifth Circuit’s ruling in Albert’s favor only adds more weight to our call on the State of Louisiana to stop standing in the way of Albert Woodfox’s freedom. It is time for Albert Woodfox to walk free, and it is unconscionable to hold him for a single day longer.”


The three-judge panel affirmed that Albert Woodfox did not receive a fair trial in 1998 because of discrimination in the selection of the grand jury foreperson. They upheld the findings of Judge James Brady of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, that the state 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 has spent over 40 years in solitary confinement fighting to prove his innocence in a legal process tainted with flaws.

In February 2013, a federal judge ruled that Albert Woodfox’s conviction for the murder of the guard should be overturned due to a finding of racial discrimination in the selection of his grand jury foreperson. This was the third time a court has ruled to overturn his conviction.

In 1972, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace, two black men, were convicted of the murder of a white prison guard at Louisiana’s infamous “Angola” prison. The two were sentenced to life imprisonment and placed in solitary confinement shortly after the murder, as was a third man named Robert King. Together, Woodfox, Wallace and King became known as the “Angola 3.” The men spent 23 hours a day isolated in a small cell, four steps long and three steps across, with no access to meaningful social interaction or rehabilitation. King was released in 2001. Wallace was released in October 2013 when his conviction was overturned by a federal judge. He died of liver cancer just three days later.

There was no physical evidence linking the men to the crime and potentially exculpatory evidence was “lost” by the state. Their convictions relied primarily on the dubious testimony of a sole eyewitness who received favorable treatment and was eventually pardoned in return 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.

The men maintain that they were put in solitary confinement in retaliation for their work organizing their fellow prisoners against segregation and abuses in the prison and for their membership in the Black Panther party.

http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/press-releases/amnesty-international-albert-woodfox-must-be-freed-following-appeals-court-decision
 

Angola T (397)
Saturday November 22, 2014, 8:52 am
You can still sign Amnesty's longstanding petition calling for Albert's release:

http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx?c=6oJCLQPAJiJUG&b=6645049&aid=520358&msource=W1401EAIAR1A
 

Angola T (397)
Saturday November 22, 2014, 10:35 am
Just published by the NOLA Times Picayune:

http://www.nola.com/crime/baton-rouge/index.ssf/2014/11/louisiana_ag_committed_to_keep.html

Louisiana AG ‘committed’ to keeping Angola 3 member Albert Woodfox imprisoned despite court ruling

ARTICLE EXCERPT:

Robert King, the third member of the Angola 3 who was convicted of killing a fellow inmate, was exonerated and released from prison in 2001 after 29 years in solitary. King remains active in the campaign to release Woodfox from prison as well as ending the practice of solitary confinement, which is the subject of a civil suit involving the Angola 3.

King, who now lives in New Orleans and gives talks about his experience at Angola, said despite the uncertainty of the action the state will take in response to the ruling, it’s an important, overdue step in a long process to securing Woodfox’s release.

“It’s been an uphill battle… but with this ruling, I think we have the wind at our back,” King said.

King said he was able to maintain his sanity, for the most part, while in solitary for all of those years by coming to understand – with the help of Wallace and Woodfox – that their struggle was “part of a bigger picture.” That bigger picture, he said, is painted by the country’s history with racism and injustice in the penal system.

“It kept me afloat — understanding why things were (as they were) with me and people who look like me,” King said.

King said he likes to think that Wallace, upon learning of the court’s recent ruling, would be smiling.

“We are just that much closer to Albert being released from prison,” King said. “One giant step toward that freedom.”
 
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