Trials & Litigation

'Angola Three' prisoner to be tried a third time in guard's death, despite district judge's order

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A Louisiana state judge on Monday ruled that a third trial will proceed against the final remaining Angola Three defendant still in prison for the 1972 death of a prison guard, the Associated Press reports. Judge William Carmichael also rejected defense attempts to prevent transcript testimony from a deceased prison-inmate witness.

Albert Woodfox’s conviction has been overturned twice in federal courts. Last November, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal judge’s decision to do so. In June, U.S. District Judge James Brady of the Middle District of Louisiana ordered Woodfox’s immediate release and barred a third trial. However, Woodfox remains in prison, and the state got an indictment against him anyway; that is on appeal at the 5th Circuit.

The trial of Woodfox, who spent more than 40 years in prison, has gained international attention, although the prison disputes the description of his imprisonment as “solitary confinement.” The trial of Woodfox, now 68, will not be moved from West Feliciana parish, where the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola is located, Judge Carmichael ruled. Defense attorneys had argued he cannot get a fair trial there.

The two others convicted in the guard’s death were released from prison earlier. One was exonerated in 2001 and the other freed last October, two days before his death from cancer, according to earlier reports.

Woodfox was in prison for armed robbery and assault when the guard was killed. Woodfox and the others maintained their innocence, and claimed they had been set up because they organized a prison chapter of the Black Panther Party. The key witness against him died before the second trial. His lawyers have fought to keep the transcript testimony out because there can be no cross-examination about getting favors for his testimony.

“This inmate seeks to further delay justice by attempting to put up procedural hurdles that would prevent the state from holding him fully accountable for his crime,” said Aaron Sadler, the state attorney general’s spokesman.

Judge Carmichael acceded to the defense request that a guilty verdict must be unanimous.

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