Solitary Confinement Exhibition Plants Seed for Advocacy Among SULC Student Body

Solitary Confinement Exhibition Plants Seed for Advocacy Among SULC Student Body

Written for Angola 3 News by Arisa A. Banks
 

(3L Class Representative; Symposium Editor, Journal of Race, Gender, & Poverty)

The seed for advocacy was planted among the student body stirred by the Solitary Confinement Exhibition, during 2014 Law Week activities at the Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The Oliver B. Spellman Law Library’s Civil Rights Room was the site for the exhibit throughout Law Week, March 17-21. Inspired by the remarkable story of the Angola 3, this exhibition was pulled together to create a platform to solicit discussion, activism, awareness, and advocacy to end prolonged solitary confinement practices in penal systems across this nation, according to the exhibit organizers. The Solitary Confinement Exhibit Committee included the following: Arisa Banks, Chair; Nana Mireku-Boateng- Volunteer Coordinator; LeBuria Johnson- Volunteer Coordinator; Iriane Lee- Law Week 2014 Chair; Larry Williams- Law Week 2014 Co-Chair; and Professor Angela Allen-Bell, Faculty Advisor. 

The use of solitary confinement in modern penal institutions has been officially implemented to discipline prisoners that are considered unruly. These prisoners confined to solitary confinement typically spend 23 hours of their day in isolation, with a brief period for exercise outside of their cell that often takes place in isolation as well. Being placed in solitary confinement is usually the most severe disciplinary punishment. Recently there has been an increase in prolonged solitary confinement practices in the country.

The story of the Angola 3 has exposed the use of long term solitary in the Louisiana State Penitentiary system and has brought attention to this issue nationwide and internationally. From the compelling stories of the injustice experienced by these three inmates, this exhibit was given life.

Professor Angela Allen-Bell has been a prominent advocate of the Angola 3 here on Southern University Law Center’s campus. She has done extensive research about long-term solitary confinement practices, particularly at Angola State Penitentiary. She has written numerous articles on the Angola 3, and has become heavily involved in the grass-root movement for their freedom. Her passion and commitment to this movement has been one that she has successfully passed on to her students. It is her vision, passion, and tenacity in continuing the fight for justice that planted the seed for the solitary confinement exhibit at the 2014 Law Week.

This week-long public display included documentaries on the Angola 3 and a two dimensional cell that displayed the actual dimensions of a 6X9 solitary confinement cell. The recreated cell included a depiction of a bed, desk, and toilet to illustrate how such a cell may look. The featured documentaries included In the Land of the Free, Hard Time and The Angola 3: Black Panthers and the Last Slave Plantation. The exhibition also featured keynote speakers Checo Yancy, the state president of Louisiana Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE,  a national organization whose mission is to help reduce crime through criminal justice reform), prison advocate and longtime Angola 3 supporter Malik Rahim, a prison advocate and Robert King, the first freed member of the Angola 3.

King and Rahim honored the campus with their presence during the Herman Wallace Memorial Program. The Herman Wallace Memorial Program occurred on March 20, 2014. It was a program that was part of the speaker series event for the exhibit to commemorate the efforts of Mr. Wallace in his fight for justice and to honor his legacy. King spoke to the student body about his experience while in solitary confinement for 29 years at Angola State Prison. While addressing the conditions of living in solitary confinement, King challenged the student body to advocate for justice and human rights. He ended his speech by arguing that Wallace’s legacy must not end because of his death, but that the fight continues.

The audience was so engaged by King’s presentation that the silence was deafening and students were still talking about its impact for weeks following the event. Carlton Miller, a graduating senior and participant in the program, stated how he was impacted and moved from the event. In reflection, Miller said: “Learning of the significant impact solitary confinement has on human beings’ mind, body, and spirit has truly inspired me to seek justice for those forgotten in the deep pits of prisons across this country. This isn’t an isolated issue affecting only those who are imprisoned, but rather is an issue that plagues our whole country. It is a stain on our reputation and a testament of our character if we continue to let this issue go unresolved. Hearing the vivid descriptions some inmates are facing in solitary confinement is unsettling. We can and must seek to use and influence the legal and political system to be sensitive to this issue.”

Felicia Hamilton, a graduating senior, felt that this program and exhibit was among one of the best events of Law Week, and said further that “the exhibit was both chilling & thought-provoking! Hosting the exhibit in the Civil Rights Room was an appropriate backdrop to learn more about the injustice experienced by the Angola 3.”

Below are photos from the Civil Rights Room exhibit and the event with Robert King:

A Moral Outrage: Albert Woodfox’s 41 Years in Solitary Confinement, Despite Three Overturned Convictions –An interview with Rev. Dr. Patricia Bates

(PHOTO: On behalf of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Rev. Dr. Patricia Bates speaks in support of Albert Woodfox at the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge on October 21, 2013.)

A Moral Outrage: Albert Woodfox’s 41 Years in Solitary Confinement, Despite Three Overturned Convictions 
–An interview with Rev. Dr. Patricia Teel Bates

By Angola 3 News

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.”

(PHOTO: Herman on left, with Albert on right)

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 suprisingly, 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,” prompting 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’s 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.

(PHOTO: Robert H. King met with US Congressman John Conyers in May, 2013.)

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 U.S. 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.

(PHOTO: A3 supporters at the Court on Jan. 7)

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:

“As a faith leader, I am here to share the religious community’s strong support for the immediate release of Mr. Albert Woodfox, and to call for an end to the immorality and inhumanity of his confinement…Last year, we witnessed the inhumane treatment of Mr. Herman Wallace, released just days before his passing after over forty-years in solitary confinement. The experience of Mr. Wallace, and Mr. King with whom I stand today, tells a devastating tale of the immorality and indignity of our justice system. Even as I speak, we remember that over 80,000 men, women and youth in U.S. prisons, jails and detention centers are subjected to solitary confinement on any given day, detained in a cell alone for 23 hours a day for months, years, decades. Such conditions have long been considered a form of torture. People of faith recognize that solitary confinement denies the essential God-given need for community and destroys not only the individuals subjected to such conditions but also our families, communities and the loved ones of those subjected to such inhumane treatment.”

In this interview with Rev. Dr. Bates, she discusses the Jan. 7 hearing as well as a recent order banning her from David Wade Correction Center, where Albert is housed, in her hometown of Homer, LA.

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

Angola 3 News:         Could you please tell us about your work over the years inside prisons and around criminal justice issues?

Patricia Bates:           Over the last forty-two years I have volunteered off and on in prisons and jails, mainly in NW Louisiana in various capacities as a literacy and GED tutor and  also as a worship leader, supporter of inmate organizations, and Kairos (Outside and Inside) retreat leader and supporter.

About ten years ago, after moving to Homer, near David Wade Correctional Center, I created a nonprofit interfaith restorative justice ministry that has helped to fund Victim-Offender Dialogues thru the Louisiana Department of Corrections.  Our nonprofit, Seeds of Light, provides (1) support of various kinds to offenders’ families, (2) ministers in reentry prison/jail programs, and (3) a variety of services to children and families living in at-risk neighborhoods. We operate a food bank and thrift store and hold regular worship services for those affected by incarceration.  In 2009 Seeds of Light was recognized with a Governor’s award for excellence for humanitarian service to the community.

Additionally, as an ordained deacon in The United Methodist Church and the Peace with Justice Coordinator for Louisiana’s United Methodists, I advocate at the national level on a variety of restorative justice issues including opposition to the Death Penalty through People of Faith Against the Death Penalty (PFADP) and opposition to extended solitary confinement through the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT).

A3N:   When did you first begin speaking out about Albert Woodfox’s case?

PB:      NRCAT asked that I advocate on behalf of Mr. Albert Woodfox and asked me to serve as NRCAT spokesperson on his behalf at the October 21, 2013, Baton Rouge press conference and at the January 7, 2014, press conference in New Orleans following the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals hearing.

In both cases I spoke as a matter of conscience based on biblical social justice principles. Jesus said that what we do to the least of these, the poor, the hungry, the imprisoned, etc. we do to Him. I am a passionate believer in the sacred worth of every human being.  As a person of faith.  I must do all within my power to see that our justice system operates out of the principles of restorative justice rather than retributive justice.

Extended use of solitary confinement makes healthy restoration a near impossibility. For that reason, I am convinced that extended use of solitary confinement constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. In short, it constitutes torture.

A3N:   When were you first notified that you were not allowed to return to David Wade Correctional Center?

PB:      Shortly after the Oct. 21, 2013 press conference I received a phone call from David Wade Correctional Center that I could not continue to serve as a volunteer there.

A3N:   Were you given a reason for the dismissal?

PB:      I was given minimal explanation but can only assume, given the time line, that my advocacy somehow violated prison guidelines for volunteers.

A3N:   How will this dismissal from David Wade affect your prison ministry going forward?

PB:      As a matter of conscience I must speak up when I perceive an injustice such as Mr. Woodfox’s confinement to solitary for over forty years. Animal rights advocates would be outraged if animals received such treatment. How can we turn a blind eye and refuse to speak out when children of God are treated so inhumanely?

My dismissal from Wade cannot short-circuit my faith commitment to continue to work for justice. It simply means I am to work on the outside rather than on the inside.

A3N:   This week, on January 7, you attended Albert’s oral arguments before the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Do you have any reflections on what transpired there?

PB:      As I sat in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and listened to arguments from both sides, I listened very closely with the assumption that both sides were represented by people of good will who simply had different views regarding the issue of whether or not objective race-neutral criteria had been used in the grand jury selection process in West Feliciana Parish in the case of Mr. Woodfox.

When the issue of literacy was raised, I became especially interested as I have a Ph.D. in English and taught college-level English, in addition to prison literacy, for over thirty years of my professional career before becoming an ordained minister. I am keenly aware of the unjust bias that is attached to how minorities use the English language and the unfair disadvantage this can create in minority communities.

Also, I am keenly aware that voter registration pools are sometimes inadequate to provide a race-neutral grand jury of one’s peers.

These observations, along with my faith commitment, compel me to continue to actively support Mr. Woodfox’s appeal for equal justice under the law.

His conviction has been overturned three times. Why do authorities persist in keeping him in lock down? Only they can say.

There is still time to take action for Albert!

–Angola 3 News is a project of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3. Our website is www.angola3news.com where we provide the latest news about the Angola 3. We are also creating our own media projects, which spotlight the issues central to the story of the Angola 3, like racism, repression, prisons, human rights, solitary confinement as torture, and more.

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

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

(PHOTO: A3 supporters at the Court on Jan. 7)

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.

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

MEDIA COVERAGE:  Lauren McGaughy, Times-Picayune  II  The Republic / Associated Press

After decades of appeals and counter-appeals, delays and diversions, the 5th Circuit Court will review Judge Brady’s decision to overturn Albert’s conviction tomorrow. 

Years and years of efforts to bring attention to this case and to see that justice is finally done will culminate in the outcome of this important hearing.

If you are intending to attend the hearing, please refer to our last newsletter for detailed information on time, place and court-room etiquette.  If you’re watching from afar as so many of us are, we hope that you will join us in sending all of our prayers, thoughts and energy towards a positive ruling that will lead to Albert’s release.

We have to believe that all the hard work to shed light on this horrific case will ultimately lead to Albert’s freedom.
Join us in focusing all our attention on this final and crucial hearing to bring Albert home.

Free Albert Woodfox and all political prisoners!

(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.)

Featured below are statements released January 6, 2014 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 (see also postings by Amnesty Suisse and France).

Following that is an email action alert sent on January 3 that declared “Drop the vengeance! Free Albert Woodfox!” It called on supporters to sign the petition calling on Albert’s immediate release.

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.

(PHOTO: Herman Wallace, on left, with Albert Woodfox, on right)

USA: End four-decade campaign of vengeance and release Albert Woodfox

(Released by the Amnesty International Media Centre on January 6, 2014)

Authorities in the US state of Louisiana must end their campaign of vengeance against Albert Woodfox and release him after nearly four decades of cruel solitary confinement, Amnesty International said on the eve of a Federal Court of Appeals hearing on his case.

“The state of Louisiana’s action is not in the interests of justice. Its insistence in keeping Albert Woodfox behind bars after decades in solitary confinement amounts to a campaign of vengeance, paid with taxpayers’ money,” said Tessa Murphy, USA campaigner at Amnesty International.

“It is incomprehensible that the state continues to keep him behind bars. This conviction has been overturned three times in what is a deeply flawed case, yet Louisiana has opposed every remedy ordered by the courts.”

On 7 January, 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.

“Louisiana should 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,” said Tessa Murphy.

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 programmes.

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 favourable treatment 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.

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 Tessa Murphy.

“Herman Wallace gained his freedom only to die within days. Justice must not again be so cruelly delayed.”

Background information

Louisiana must end its campaign of vengeance against Albert Woodfox (press release).

Justice deferred to the end (press release).

USA: 100 years in solitary: The ‘Angola 3’ and their fight for justice (report).

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 their appeal against the US District Court’s ruling.

AI Index: PRE01/001/2014

(PHOTO: Michael Mable, the brother of Albert Woodfox, speaks at the press conference and delivery of petition to free Albert at the Louisiana State Capitol on Oct.21, 2013.)

Drop the vengeance! Free Albert Woodfox!

(Email Action Alert sent by Amnesty USA on Friday, January 3, 2014)

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

(PHOTO: Amnesty USA’s Jasmine Heiss spoke at the Louisiana State Capitol on Oct. 21, 2013.)

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

MEDIA COVERAGE:  Lauren McGaughy, Times-Picayune  II  The Republic / Associated Press

After decades of appeals and counter-appeals, delays and diversions, the 5th Circuit Court will review Judge Brady’s decision to overturn Albert’s conviction tomorrow. 

Years and years of efforts to bring attention to this case and to see that justice is finally done will culminate in the outcome of this important hearing.

If you are intending to attend the hearing, please refer to our last newsletter for detailed information on time, place and court-room etiquette.  If you’re watching from afar as so many of us are, we hope that you will join us in sending all of our prayers, thoughts and energy towards a positive ruling that will lead to Albert’s release.

We have to believe that all the hard work to shed light on this horrific case will ultimately lead to Albert’s freedom.
Join us in focusing all our attention on this final and crucial hearing to bring Albert home.

Free Albert Woodfox and all political prisoners!

(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.)

Featured below are statements released January 6, 2014 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 (see also postings by Amnesty Suisse and France).

Following that is an email action alert sent on January 3 that declared “Drop the vengeance! Free Albert Woodfox!” It called on supporters to sign the petition calling on Albert’s immediate release.

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.

(PHOTO: Herman Wallace, on left, with Albert Woodfox, on right)

USA: End four-decade campaign of vengeance and release Albert Woodfox

(Released by the Amnesty International Media Centre on January 6, 2014)

Authorities in the US state of Louisiana must end their campaign of vengeance against Albert Woodfox and release him after nearly four decades of cruel solitary confinement, Amnesty International said on the eve of a Federal Court of Appeals hearing on his case.

“The state of Louisiana’s action is not in the interests of justice. Its insistence in keeping Albert Woodfox behind bars after decades in solitary confinement amounts to a campaign of vengeance, paid with taxpayers’ money,” said Tessa Murphy, USA campaigner at Amnesty International.

“It is incomprehensible that the state continues to keep him behind bars. This conviction has been overturned three times in what is a deeply flawed case, yet Louisiana has opposed every remedy ordered by the courts.”

On 7 January, 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.

“Louisiana should 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,” said Tessa Murphy.

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 programmes.

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 favourable treatment 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.

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 Tessa Murphy.

“Herman Wallace gained his freedom only to die within days. Justice must not again be so cruelly delayed.”

Background information

Louisiana must end its campaign of vengeance against Albert Woodfox (press release).

Justice deferred to the end (press release).

USA: 100 years in solitary: The ‘Angola 3’ and their fight for justice (report).

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 their appeal against the US District Court’s ruling.

AI Index: PRE01/001/2014

(PHOTO: Michael Mable, the brother of Albert Woodfox, speaks at the press conference and delivery of petition to free Albert at the Louisiana State Capitol on Oct.21, 2013.)

Drop the vengeance! Free Albert Woodfox!

(Email Action Alert sent by Amnesty USA on Friday, January 3, 2014)

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

(PHOTO: Amnesty USA’s Jasmine Heiss spoke at the Louisiana State Capitol on Oct. 21, 2013.)