The release of Albert Woodfox was delayed yet again by an appeals court. Photo courtesy Amnesty International
BATON ROUGE, La., June 12 (UPI) -- The release of Albert Woodfox, the last remaining member of the so-called "Angola 3" still in prison, was delayed again by an appeals court on Friday.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order staying Woodfox's release pending the outcome of an appeal filed by Louisiana Attorney General James "Buddy" Caldwell.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge James Brady ordered the release of Woodcox, who has served more than four decades in solitary confinement for the death of prison guard Brent Miller.
Woodfox, 68, was serving a 50-year sentence for armed robbery in 1972 when he was involved in a riot at Angola State Prison that resulted in Miller's death. He, Robert King and Herman Wallace -- the Angola 3 -- were each convicted. King spent 29 years in solitary confinement before his conviction was overturned and he was released.
Wallace was released in 2013 after 41 years confinement. He died two days later.
Woodfox's initial conviction was overturned, but he was found guilty again in 1998. He maintained his innocence over the years, saying he was targeted because he helped organized the prison's Black Panther Party.
Brady ordered Woodfox's release because of the prisoner'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 40 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 40 years ago."
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, though, ordered a stay of Woodfox's release on Tuesday in reaction to an appeal by Caldwell's office. He was due to be released Friday afternoon, but the appeals court issued another order delaying the release pending the outcome of a full appeal.
"We are pleased with the court's decision that this inmate should remain in custody as the state pursues its appeal," Caldwell spokesman Adam Sadler said in a statement. "It has always been the state's priority to ensure justice for the brutal slaying of Brent Miller and to hold accountable this murderer who has an extensive history of violent crimes."
Woodfox's lawyers, in a statement emailed to UPI, said they were "confident that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will ultimately find that the district court's ruling is sound, well-reasoned and based on well-established law.
"This is the rare, exceptional instance in which it is appropriate for the federal court to step in and prevent the state from attempting to mount an unfair trial. As the district court stated, a third trial would be unfair at best. With all key witnesses now deceased, there is no longer a possibility of a reliable new trial. The fact that two previous convictions have been reversed demonstrates the weakness of the state's case, even when those witnesses were living.
"Furthermore, there is no penological justification for the harsh conditions under which Mr. Woodfox has been held for over four decades. We will continue to challenge the right of the state to hold Mr. Woodfox, an elderly man in failing health, in the harshest possible solitary confinement conditions and work to get the medical care he urgently needs at a proper medical facility."