Halt prosecution – guard’s widow

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Published: Friday 12th June 2015 by The News Editor

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The widow of a prison guard killed 43 years ago at Louisiana State Penitentiary wants the state to drop its effort to launch a third trial of a Black Panther activist long accused of the killing.

Teenie Rogers said she has spent years “looking at the evidence” and “soul-searching”, and is convinced that Albert Woodfox was framed for the murder of Brent Miller at Angola prison.

She says the state should “stop acting like there is any evidence that Albert Woodfox killed Brent”.

The widow’s statement was released by a group that advocates for Woodfox as an appeals court decides whether to uphold a federal judge’s order that he be spared a third trial.

Woodfox, the last member of the “Angola Three” inmates who has spent more than 40 years in solitary confinement, had “immediate” and “unconditional” freedom ordered by a US judge earlier this week, b ut a federal appeals court temporarily blocked the release.

The federal judge ruled that the state cannot fairly try Woodfox, 68, a third time for the killing and that the “only just remedy” would be setting him free after all the years he spent in “extended lockdown”.

Woodfox has long maintained his innocence in the guard’s killing, which happened during protests against brutal conditions inside the huge prison built on a former slave plantation in Angola, Louisiana.

His two previous convictions were overturned for racial prejudice and lack of evidence.

Louisiana attorney general Buddy Caldwell is appealing against the order by US district judge James Brady, saying Woodfox is a killer who should remain locked up.

“We are hopeful that the Court of Appeals will grant this stay, for the sake of the families of his victims and the multiple juries and grand juries that independently determined that this inmate should be held accountable for his multiple crimes,” a spokesman for Mr Caldwell said.

Woodfox is being held at West Feliciana Parish Detention Centre in St Francisville, where he was transferred in preparation for a third trial. His lawyer George Kendall met Woodfox at the jail and said he is “guardedly hopeful”.

He was one of several prisoners accused of killing of Mr Miller, a 23-year-old guard at the prison. A year earlier, Woodfox and Herman Wallace helped establish a prison chapter of the Black Panther party, while Robert King helped establish a Black Panther chapter in the New Orleans prison.

All three were active in hunger strikes and work stoppages that spurred improvements to prison conditions, and all three suffered harsh treatment afterwards as prison authorities kept them isolated at Angola to prevent more disruption.

In ruling against a third trial, Mr Brady cited the inmate’s age and poor health, the unavailability of witnesses, “the prejudice done on to Mr Woodfox by spending over 40 years in solitary confinement”, and “the very fact that Mr Woodfox has already been tried twice” before his convictions were overturned.

Wallace died in October 2013, days after a judge freed him and granted him a new trial. King has become a public speaker since his release in 2001 after the reversal of his conviction in the death of a fellow inmate in 1973.

Published: Friday 12th June 2015 by The News Editor

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