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Woodfox Conviction Axed, After 35 Years in Solitary, But Appeal is Planned

Posted Jul 10, 2008 1:09 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Albert Woodfox, a former member of the Black Panthers, has been held in solitary confinement for more than 35 years for the 1972 murder of a Louisiana prison guard.

On Tuesday, he won a reprieve when a federal judge agreed with a magistrate's recommendation that his conviction should be overturned because of ineffective assistance of counsel, according to ABC News. Counsel for Woodfox had previously argued that the prosecution failed to turn over evidence.

But that doesn't mean his release is a certainty. The Louisiana attorney general has announced that the state will appeal the decision by U.S. District Judge James Brady to the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Woodfox, who is now 61, has long contended he was framed by prison officials because of his role in forming a chapter of the Black Panther Party at the prison, notes the Advocate, a Louisiana newspaper. The African-American social action group was active in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and was considered radical by many, including J. Edgar Hoover, then head of the FBI.

"The man was convicted on false evidence, and he's been held in solitary for almost 40 years. Let's release him," Nick Trenticosta, a New Orleans lawyer who represents Woodfox, tells the Associated Press.

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