Louisiana Inmate To Be Freed After 43 Years In Solitary Confinement

Jun 9, 2015
Originally published on June 10, 2015 7:09 am
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Albert Woodfox has been in solitary confinement in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola and other prisons for more than 40 years. Yesterday, a federal judge called for him to be released immediately, and today, an appellate court temporarily blocked that order. Eve Troeh of member station WWNO in New Orleans begins our coverage.

EVE TROEH, BYLINE: Albert Woodfox and two other men, all inmates at the time, were convicted in the 1972 killing of a prison guard. They were sentenced to solitary confinement in Louisiana's State Penitentiary. Each spent decades in a cell just a few steps wide by a few steps long. They became known as the The Angola Three. After 43 years in solitary with only one hour a day in the open, Albert Woodfox is the last of them still in prison. His lawyer, Nick Trenticosta in New Orleans, says that’s a record.

NICK TRENTICOSTA: There is no person in this country nor do we know of any person in the world who has suffered 43 years in solitary confinement. That has caught the attention of a lot of different people around the world. It's a cruel and unusual punishment, period.

TROEH: The Angola Three became an international human rights cause. All three maintain their innocence, saying they were framed for the prison guard's murder as retaliation for involvement in the Black Panther movement. Louisiana attorney general, Buddy Caldwell, has called Albert Woodfox one of the most dangerous men on the planet. U.S. district judge James Brady ordered on Monday that Woodfox be freed, expressing a lack of confidence in the ability of the state to try the case fairly. And, the judge noted, the 68-year-old Woodfox suffers from hepatitis C, diabetes and other serious ailments. Today, the state filed and was granted an emergency stay by a federal appeals court to stop Woodfox's release. This marks the latest twist in a decades-long legal battle. Angola Three member Robert King was released in 2001, his conviction overturned. Herman Wallace was released in 2013 and died of advanced liver cancer a few days later, though the state had planned to re-arrest him. Woodfox's lawyer says his client will remain incarcerated at least until Friday while the court decides what to do next. For NPR news, I'm Eve Troeh in New Orleans Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.