US District Judge James Brady ordered the immediate release of Albert Woodfox, the US’ longest-serving solitary confinement prisoner and last of the so-called "Angola 3" inmates.
Along with Robert King and Herman Wallace, Woodfox was convicted of armed robbery in 1971 and sent to Angola prison. Woodfox and Wallace, both members of the prison’s chapter of the Black Panthers, were also activists seeking improved conditions in the prison and fighting to end segregation.
In 1972, the two were convicted of murdering a prison guard, and subsequently removed from general population to solitary confinement. The two maintained their innocence, saying they were framed for the crime.
King, who was blamed for the murder but never convicted, was also sent to solitary confinement at the same time. He was later released in 2001, after a successful appeal to the federal court system.
Wallace was released in 2013, after just over four decades in prison, and died just three days later.
Woodfox, 68, was re-indicted by a Louisiana grand jury earlier this year. A report from Amnesty International responded to the new indictment by calling for the Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to "stop pursuing a campaign of vengeance by trying to re-indict a man who has already spent more than four decades in cruel confinement, after a legal process tainted with flaws."
The order issued by Judge Bay not only calls for Woodfox’s release, but also bars a retrial in his case. He cited several reasons for his decision:
"Mr. Woodfox’s age and poor health, his limited ability to present a defense at a third trial in light of the unavailability of witnesses, this Court’s lack of confidence in the State to provide a fair third trial, the prejudice done onto Mr. Woodfox by spending over forty-years in solitary confinement, and finally the very fact that Mr. Woodfox has already been tried twice and would otherwise face his third trial for a crime that occurred over forty years ago."
King, who has been fighting for his fellow inmate’s freedom for years, says he believes Woodfox is ready to for life outside prison.
"I don’t think he’ll have problem acclimating himself. He had a pretty good concept about what his condition entailed," King said. "He was able to perceive there would be negative effects, so he was able to think beyond the perimeter of his 6X9 cell."