Criminal Justice

Last 'Angola Three' inmate is released; his time in solitary may be the longest in US history

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The last member of the “Angola Three” was released on Friday after pleading no contest to manslaughter in the 1972 death of a prison guard.

Albert Woodfox, who turned 69 on Friday, had spent more than 40 years in solitary confinement, which may be the longest served in solitary in U.S. history, report the New York Times, the Advocate and the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Woodfox, originally sent to prison on armed robbery charges, had maintained his innocence in the guard’s death. His supporters claimed Woodfox and inmate Herman Wallace were blamed for the crime in retaliation for their activism with the Black Panther Party. The third “Angola Three” member, Robert King, also a political activist, had been convicted of killing another inmate.

Wallace was released in 2013 shortly before he died from liver cancer, while King was exonerated and released form prison in 2001. All three inmates were held in a Louisiana prison known as Angola.

The case against Woodfox in the guard’s slaying was based on “problematic witness accounts,” provided by inmates who received incentives for testimony that was at times inconsistent, the Times says.

Woodfox’s first conviction in the slaying was overturned in 1992 . He was retried, and the second conviction was overturned in 2012; the decision was upheld by an appeals court. Woodfox’s lawyers were preparing for a third trial when a new state attorney general agreed to settlement negotiations.

Woodfox was represented by George Kendall of Squire Patton Boggs in the habeas appeal, Kendall and Kate Kimpel of Sanford Heisler Kimpel in a civil suit challenging solitary confinement, and by William Sothern and Rob McDuff in the state court criminal case.

Updated on Feb. 24 to list all of Woodfox’s lawyers.

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