Court temporarily blocks release of 'Angola 3' inmate

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Louisiana AG Asks Court to Halt Release of 'Angola 3' Inmate

ST. FRANCISVILLE, La. (AP) -- A federal appeals court has temporarily blocked the release of Albert Woodfox, the last of the Louisiana inmates dubbed the Angola 3 by supporters protesting their long stints in solitary confinement.

Tuesday's order came a day after a U.S. district judge said Woodfox should be released immediately - and that the state cannot try him again for the killing of a prison guard.

His two previous convictions were overturned. Woodfox has long maintained his innocence in that death in 1972, when inmates were protesting conditions inside the Louisiana State Penitentiary.

Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell is appealing the judge's order, saying Woodfox is a killer who should remain locked up.

The appeals court order blocks the release of Woodfox until at least Friday.

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Angola Three- LA State Prison (Angola State Penitentiary)
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Court temporarily blocks release of 'Angola 3' inmate
Entrance to the Louisiana State Penitentiary Friday, Sept. 18, 2009 in Angola, La. ( AP Photo/Judi Bottoni )
This undated photo provided by the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 shows Albert Woodfox. Prosecutors sought to keep Woodfox, the last of the "Angola Three," behind bars Tuesday, June 9, 2015, despite a federal judge's order to immediately release him after 43 years in isolation, a longer period in lockdown than any other living U.S. prisoner. Woodfox was one of several prisoners accused of killing Brent Miller, a 23-year-old guard at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, in Angola, La., in 1972. (Courtesy of International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 via AP)
In this Feb 12, 2015 image made from video and released by WBRZ-TV in Baton Rouge, Albert Woodfox walks into a courthouse in Louisiana. A federal appeals court on Tuesday temporarily blocked the release of Woodfox, the last of the “Angola Three” inmates who spent decades in isolation after forming a Black Panther Party to protest prison conditions. Tuesday’s order came a day after a federal judge ruled that the state can’t fairly try Woodfox, now 68, a third time for the death of a prison guard 43 years ago. (WBRZ-TV via AP)
FILE - In this Aug. 18, 2011 file photo, a prison guard on horseback watches inmates return from a farm work detail at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, La. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
The sun shines through concertina wire on a fence at the Angola Prison Rodeo in Angola, La., Saturday, April 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Members of the Louisiana State Penitentiary Levee Patrol inspect levees near Camp C Monday, April 14, 2008 for any sign of water seepage. (AP Photo/Tim Mueller)
In this Aug. 18, 2011 photo, prison guards ride horses that were broken by inmates as they return from farm work detail at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, La. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
A view of barbed - wire at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, Friday, Sept. 18, 2009 in Angola,La. (AP Photo/Judi Bottoni)
EMBARGOED UNTIL MAY 13 - 00H01 GMT Robert Hillary King, a former member of the Black Panther Party who spent 32 years, 29 of them in solitary confinement, in Angola Prison, Louisiana, attends the launching of the NGO's campaign 'Stop Torture' on May 12, 2014 in Paris. The campaign aims at urging governments worldwide meeting their obligations to prohibit torture and to implement effective measures to protect their citizens. The NGO's annual report on the use on torture worldwide is to be released on May 13, 2014. AFP PHOTO / PIERRE ANDRIEU (Photo credit should read PIERRE ANDRIEU/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - This April 22, 2009, file photo, shows a view of the front entrance of the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, La. Albert Woodfox, the last of three high-profile Louisiana prisoners known as the "Angola Three," could walk free within days after a federal judge ordered state officials to release him immediately. Woodfox has been in solitary confinement for 43 years. He was accused, along with three other prisoners, in the stabbing death of Brent Miller, a 23-year-old guard at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. (AP file photo/Judi Bottoni, File)
FILE - This April 22, 2009, file photo, shows a prisoner, far right, seen behind layers of wire razor fencing at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, La. Albert Woodfox, the last of three high-profile Louisiana prisoners known as the "Angola Three," could walk free within days after a federal judge ordered state officials to release him immediately. Woodfox has been in solitary confinement for 43 years. He was accused, along with three other prisoners, in the stabbing death of Brent Miller, a 23-year-old guard at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. (AP Photo/Judi Bottoni, File)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - OCTOBER 12: Family, friends, and supporters gather to watch and grieve the passing and internment of the Herman Wallace in New Orleans, Louisiana. Wallace, a key founding member of The Black Panther movement, spent 41 years in solitary confinement at Angola prison, which lies 60 miles north of Baton Rouge. He was released 9 days ago after a court conceded he was wrongfully convicted and then carried out of the prison on a stretcher. He died two days later. Photo by Giles Clarke/Getty Images.
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THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Louisiana's attorney general asked a federal appeals court Tuesday to block the release of Albert Woodfox, the last of the so-called Angola 3 prisoners who spent years in solitary confinement.

Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's request to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans came a day after U.S. District Judge James Brady issued a strongly worded ruling that "the only just remedy" is the immediate and unconditional release of Woodfox.

Brady, based in Baton Rouge, said that the Black Panther organizer, now 68 years old, should not face a third trial in the stabbing death of a prison guard. His two previous convictions were overturned, and Woodfox has long maintained his innocence in that death in 1972, when inmates were protesting conditions inside the Louisiana State Penitentiary.

It was unclear when the appeals court might rule.

Woodfox is one of three men dubbed the "Angola 3" by supporters protesting their long stints in solitary confinement. Supporters say he is being punished for a history of political activism, but Caldwell insisted otherwise.

"We are hopeful that the Court of Appeals will grant this stay, for the sake of the families of his victims and the multiple juries and grand juries that independently determined that this inmate should be held accountable for his multiple crimes," Caldwell spokesman Aaron Sadler said in a statement.

Both of Woodfox's convictions were overturned because of racial prejudice and lack of evidence.

Woodfox is currently being held at the West Feliciana Parish Detention Center in St. Francisville, where he was transferred in preparation for a third trial.

Woodfox is "guardedly hopeful," said his attorney, George Kendall, who met with him inside the jail Tuesday. Woodfox has been through arduous court fights before and "understands how the system works," Kendall said.

Kendall said he did not know when Woodfox might be released, but he expects a ruling on the state's appeal within 48 hours.

Angela Bell, an assistant professor of legal writing and analysis at Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, said she talked with Woodfox on Monday night. She said he's been suffering increasing panic attacks, exacerbating other health problems including diabetes.

"He does not allow himself to be very optimistic about things. I think that that is a coping mechanism that he has developed. But we talk often about the power of prayer and the ability of God to deliver miracles. And I do believe that he believes that that is possible," Bell said.

In his ruling, Brady cited doubt the state could provide a fair third trial; the inmate's age and poor health; the unavailability of witnesses; "the prejudice done onto Mr. Woodfox by spending over forty years in solitary confinement"; and "the very fact that Mr. Woodfox has already been tried twice" before his convictions were overturned.

Amnesty International and the United Nations have condemned Woodfox's imprisonment as inhumane. Human rights advocates contend his solitary confinement is a form of torture.

Jasmine Heiss, a senior campaigner with Amnesty International USA, called Brady's ruling "a momentous step toward justice."

Woodfox was one of several prisoners accused of killing of Brent Miller, a 23-year-old guard at the prison. A year earlier, Woodfox and Herman Wallace helped establish a prison chapter of the Black Panther Party, while Robert King helped establish a Black Panther chapter in the New Orleans prison.

All three were active in hunger strikes and work stoppages that spurred improvements to prison conditions, and all three suffered harsh treatment thereafter as prison authorities kept them isolated at Angola to prevent more disruption behind bars.

Wallace died in October 2013, days after a judge freed him and granted him a new trial. King has become a public speaker since his release in 2001 after the reversal of his conviction in the death of a fellow inmate in 1973.


Listen in here to see what a released Angola 3 inmate had to say about solitary confinement:

What's Solitary Confinement Like?

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