An inmate who spent 43 years in solitary confinement has been ordered to be released by a US federal judge.
Albert Woodfox was transferred to solitary in 1972 after being charged with the murder of state penitentiary guard Brent Miller. He had been twice tried for the guard’s death. Both convictions were overturned.
On ordering his release, the judge expressed doubts that the state could provide a “third fair trial”. He also took into account Woodfox’s age, poor health, the unavailability of witnesses and the prejudice done to the prisoner by spending more than 40 years in solitary confinement. There was also the small matter that he had been already tried twice.
The 68-year-old, along with two other inmates, became known as the Angola Three because of their long periods of solitary confinement in the maximum security prison in Louisiana.
The other two were Robert King and Herman Wallace. Wallace and Woodfox, sentenced for unrelated armed robberies, claim their long periods of confinements were due to their political activism.
The two were former Black Panthers members and at the Angola prison set up demonstrations and protested for better conditions.
King’s conviction over the death of an inmate in 1973 was quashed and he was released in 2001.
Wallace died a few days after he was released in 2013 after a judge ordered his release and retrial.
State prosecutors say they will appeal the ruling. “With today’s order, the court would see fit to set free a twice-convicted murderer who is awaiting trial again for the brutal slaying of Corrections Officer Brent Miller,” spokesman Aaron Sadler said.
“This order arbitrarily sets aside jury decisions and gives a free pass to a murderer based on faulty procedural issues,” he added.