Referendum to support the campaign to free albert woodfox
The AHS Board agreed during its December, 2013, conference call to present to the membership a referendum on the spring ballot for possible adoption. The referendum is about whether or not the membership wants to officially support the release of Albert Woodfox, one of the Angola 3, incarcerated in solitary confinement for 42 years at this point. It was felt that the membership might need a more comprehensive understanding of the background of the case in order to decide the matter. This is intended to provide the necessary information.
In the early 1970’s, while in jail for having committed separate robberies, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace embraced the principles of the Black Panther Party before they were sent to the Louisiana State Prison at Angola, known as the bloodiest penitentiary in America, rampant with drugs, gambling, stabbings and rapes. When they arrived at the prison, Woodfox and Wallace contacted the Black Panther Party national office, requesting permission to establish aBPPchapter inside the walls. Given the go-ahead, Woodfox, Wallace and a few other brave souls began organizing the prisoners at Angola to stop all prisoner-to-prisoner violence, including rape.
As the prisoner-to-prisoner violence decreased, the money made by the guards and administration through
wide-spread vice and corruption decreased, as well. The prisoners organizing and working in their own best interests soon resulted in legislative investigations and Angola Prison administrators no longer felt in control of the institution.
On April 17, 1972, a young White guard was brutally stabbed to death. Almost immediately, Woodfox and Wallace were placed in solitary confinement and within days, a brutal serial rapist serving a life sentence claimed he had seen the two men stab the guard to death. There was no corroborating evidence. A bloody shoeprint and bloody fingerprints found at the scene did not belong to either of them. And their locations at the time of the crime would have made it impossible for them to commit the murder. Yet they were tried and convicted of the crime (based only on the testimony of the rapist who testified in return for his subsequent release from prison).
In the fall of 1972, Robert King, also a Black Panther, was sent to Angola to serve a sentence for robbery. Upon arrival, he was immediately placed in solitary confinement for “investigation” related to the murder of the guard, despite the fact that he was not even in the institution at the time it was committed. King, Woodfox, and Wallace then became known as “The Angola 3.”
In 1998, Albert Woodfox’ conviction was overturned, but a new grand jury, chaired by the ex-wife of a former warden at Angola (a woman who had written a book about the prison in which she repeated a number of lies about Woodfox, including that he is a convicted rapist, which he is not) determined that he should be re-tried. The new trial was held in the home town of the murdered guard. No new evidence was presented and the supposed eye-witness was dead (which meant that he could not be cross-examined). Yet Woodfox was found guilty once more, based only on the written transcript of the “witness’” testimony from the original trial.
In 2001, after Robert King had spent 29 years in solitary confinement, he was released. In 2008 and 2011, Woodfox’ conviction was overturned twice more, but Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, calling Albert Woodfox “the most dangerous man in the world,” has appealed each decision and blocked Woodfox’ ability to post bond and be released, so he is still incarcerated, where he has now been in solitary confinement for 42 years. In October of 2013, Herman Wallace was released on a Habeus Corpus ruling only days before he died of liver cancer.
And on January 7, 2014, Woodfox’ appeal was heard by a three-judge panel which is expected to make a ruling this year. In the meantime, Amnesty International has called for the immediate release of Albert Woodfox, saying that he has now, to their knowledge, spent more consecutive time in solitary confinement than any other prisoner in the world. U.N. Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez has also demanded Woodfox’ immediate release. Even the widow of the murdered guard says she believes that Woodfox and Wallace did not commit the crime and has urged the state and federal governments to determine the identity of her husband’s real killer. But Attorney General Caldwell has vowed to take the case personally all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary. And Angola Warden Burl Cain was quoted in the Washington Post as saying, “Albert Woodfox is still into Black Pantherism and he belongs in solitary confinement whether he did anything or not.”