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TAGS: End Unlawful Detention • Detention and Imprisonment • Americas, USA • The Angola 3 •
February 27, 2013

State of Louisiana Must Not Appeal Federal Ruling Overturning Conviction in Angola 3 Case


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Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 212-633-4150,

@AIUSAmedia

(BATON ROUGE) – Amnesty International called on Louisiana

Attorney General James Caldwell today not to appeal a federal court

ruling overturning the conviction of Albert Woodfox of the ‘Angola

3’ for the second-degree murder of a prison guard in 1972. Amnesty

International has raised serious human rights concerns over the case

for many years.

In a ruling on Tuesday, Judge James Brady of the U.S. District

Court for the Middle District of Louisiana found that racial

discrimination lay behind the under-representation of African-

Americans selected to serve as grand jury forepersons in the

jurisdiction in which Woodfox, 66, who is African-American, was

retried after his original conviction was overturned in 1992.

Judge Brady found that the state had failed to meet its burden

“to dispel the inference of intentional discrimination” indicated by

the statistical evidence covering a 13-year period from 1980 to 1993

presented by Albert Woodfox’s lawyers. The state, Judge Brady found,

had failed to show “racially neutral” reasons to explain the under-

representation of African-Americans selected as grand jury

foreperson during this period.

Woodfox was convicted in 1973 along with a second prisoner,

Herman Wallace, of the murder of Brent Miller. This conviction was

overturned in 1992, but Woodfox was re-indicted by grand jury in

1993 and convicted again at a 1998 trial, and sentenced to life

imprisonment in 1999. In 2008, a U.S. District Court ruled that

Woodfox had been denied his right to adequate assistance of counsel

during the 1998 trial and should either be retried or set free. The

court also found that evidence presented by Woodfox’s lawyers of

discrimination in the selection of the grand jury foreperson

warranted a federal evidentiary hearing. While the State appealed

the District court for a retrial – and won – yesterday’s ruling from

the evidentiary hearing, once again sees the conviction

overturned.

Amnesty International has repeatedly expressed concern that many

legal aspects of this case are troubling: no physical evidence links

Woodfox and Wallace to the murder, potentially exculpatory DNA

evidence was lost by the state, and their conviction was based on

questionable testimony – much of which subsequently retracted by

witnesses. In recent years, evidence has emerged that the main

eyewitness was bribed by prison officials into giving statements

against the men. Both men have robustly denied over the years any

involvement in the murder.

Woodfox has been held since his conviction over 40 years ago in

solitary confinement. The extremely harsh conditions he has endured,

including being confined for 23 hours a day, inadequate access to

exercise, social interaction and no access to work, education, or

rehabilitation have had physical and psychological consequences.

Throughout his incarceration, Woodfox has been denied any meaningful

review of the reasons for being kept in isolation; and records

indicate that he hasn’t committed any disciplinary infractions for

decades, nor, according to prison mental health records, is he a

threat to himself or others. Amnesty International has repeatedly

called on the authorities that both he and Wallace be removed from

such conditions which the organization believes can only be

described as cruel, inhuman and degrading.

“The fact that Woodfox’s conviction has been overturned again

gives weight to Amnesty International’s longstanding concerns that

the original legal process was flawed,” said Tessa Murphy, an

Amnesty researcher.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning

grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million

supporters, activists, and volunteers 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.