Monday, January 6, 2014

On the eve of Albert Woodfox's 5th Circuit oral arguments, Amnesty International demands his immediate release

MEDIA COVERAGE:  Lauren McGaughy, Times-Picayune  II  The Republic / Associated Press


After decades of appeals and counter-appeals, delays and diversions, the 5th Circuit Court will review Judge Brady's decision to overturn Albert's conviction tomorrow. 

Years and years of efforts to bring attention to this case and to see that justice is finally done will culminate in the outcome of this important hearing.

If you are intending to attend the hearing, please refer to our last newsletter for detailed information on time, place and court-room etiquette.  If you're watching from afar as so many of us are, we hope that you will join us in sending all of our prayers, thoughts and energy towards a positive ruling that will lead to Albert's release.

We have to believe that all the hard work to shed light on this horrific case will ultimately lead to Albert's freedom.
Join us in focusing all our attention on this final and crucial hearing to bring Albert home.

Free Albert Woodfox and all political prisoners!

(PHOTO: Artwork displayed at Herman Wallace’s memorial service, with Herman calling for Albert's release. See more photos of the memorial service by Ann Harkness.)

Featured below are statements released January 6, 2014 by both Amnesty USA and Amnesty International's Media Centre, on the eve of Albert Woodfox's oral arguments before the Fifth Circuit Court in New Orleans on Tuesday, January 7 (see also postings by Amnesty Suisse and France).

Following that is an email action alert sent on January 3 that declared "Drop the vengeance! Free Albert Woodfox!" It called on supporters to sign the petition calling on Albert's immediate release.


Amnesty International USA Calls on Louisiana to Release Albert Woodfox

Contact: Natalie Butz, nbutz@aiusa.org, 202-675-8761, @AIUSAmedia

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - On the eve of a federal court of appeals hearing on the case of Albert Woodfox, Amnesty International USA is calling on authorities in Louisiana to immediately release Woodfox from prison where he has spent over four decades in solitary confinement.

"Louisiana cannot extend the abuses and injustice against Albert Woodfox another day," said Steven W. Hawkins, executive director, Amnesty International USA. "Louisiana authorities are leading a campaign of vengeance instead of upholding justice. Keeping Woodfox in solitary confinement for over four decades is a dark stain on human rights in the United States and globally. Louisiana must withdraw its legal appeal and allow the federal court ruling to stand. Should this not occur, the Court of Appeal should rule in the interests of justice and pave the way for Albert Woodfox's release."

On January 7, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals (the federal court that oversees appeals in Louisiana and other states) will rule whether to uphold a federal district judge's ruling issued last February that overturned Woodfox's conviction. The state of Louisiana has appealed asking for the federal court to reinstate the sentence.

"The state of Louisiana's action is not in the interests of justice," said Tessa Murphy, USA campaigner at Amnesty International. "Its insistence on keeping Albert Woodfox behind bars after decades in solitary confinement amounts to a campaign of vengeance, paid with taxpayers' money. The conviction has been overturned three times in what is a deeply flawed case, yet Louisiana has opposed every remedy ordered by the courts."

Albert Woodfox was placed in solitary confinement over 41 years ago in Louisiana State Penitentiary, known to many as "Angola." During this time, he has been confined to a small cell for 23 hours a day, denied access to meaningful social interaction and rehabilitation programs.

Prison records show that Woodfox has not committed any serious disciplinary infractions for decades and that he doesn't pose a threat to himself or others.

He and Herman Wallace were both convicted of the 1972 murder of prison guard Brent Miller. There was no physical evidence to link them to the crime and their convictions relied primarily on the dubious testimony of a sole eyewitness who received favorable treatment, and was eventually pardoned, for his testimony. The case against them was based on flawed evidence and riddled with procedural errors that have been extensively documented over the years.

Both men robustly denied any involvement in the crime. They believe they were falsely implicated in the murder because of their political activism in prison as members of the Black Panther Party.

Herman Wallace was released in October 2013 just days before he died of liver cancer. A federal judge overturned his conviction on the basis of the systematic exclusion of women from the grand jury during his 1974 trial.

"A remedy to the injustice inflicted on Albert Woodfox by the state is long overdue," said Murphy. "Herman Wallace gained his freedom only to die within days. Justice must not again be so cruelly delayed."

After the death of Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox's co-defendant in the "Angola 3" case, Amnesty International launched a campaign calling on the state of Louisiana to release Albert Woodfox from prison by means of withdrawing its appeal against the U.S. District Court's ruling.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million members in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

(PHOTO: Herman Wallace, on left, with Albert Woodfox, on right)

USA: End four-decade campaign of vengeance and release Albert Woodfox

(Released by the Amnesty International Media Centre on January 6, 2014)

Authorities in the US state of Louisiana must end their campaign of vengeance against Albert Woodfox and release him after nearly four decades of cruel solitary confinement, Amnesty International said on the eve of a Federal Court of Appeals hearing on his case.

“The state of Louisiana’s action is not in the interests of justice. Its insistence in keeping Albert Woodfox behind bars after decades in solitary confinement amounts to a campaign of vengeance, paid with taxpayers’ money,” said Tessa Murphy, USA campaigner at Amnesty International.

“It is incomprehensible that the state continues to keep him behind bars. This conviction has been overturned three times in what is a deeply flawed case, yet Louisiana has opposed every remedy ordered by the courts.”

On 7 January, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals (the Federal Court that oversees appeals in Louisiana and other states) will rule whether to uphold a federal district judge’s ruling issued last February that overturned Woodfox’s conviction. The state of Louisiana has appealed asking for the Federal court to reinstate the sentence.

“Louisiana should withdraw its legal appeal and allow the federal court ruling to stand. Should this not occur, the Court of Appeal should rule in the interests of justice and pave the way for Albert Woodfox’s release,” said Tessa Murphy.

Albert Woodfox was placed in solitary confinement over 41 years ago in Louisiana State Penitentiary, known to many as “Angola”. During this time, he has been confined to a small cell for 23 hours a day, denied access to meaningful social interaction and rehabilitation programmes.

Prison records show that Woodfox has not committed any serious disciplinary infractions for decades and that he doesn’t pose a threat to himself or others.

He and Herman Wallace were both convicted of the 1972 murder of prison guard Brent Miller. There was no physical evidence to link them to the crime and their convictions relied primarily on the dubious testimony of a sole eyewitness who received favourable treatment in return for his testimony. The case against them was based on flawed evidence and riddled with procedural errors that have been extensively documented over the years.

Both men robustly denied any involvement in the crime. They believe they were falsely implicated in the murder because of their political activism in prison as members of the Black Panther Party.

Herman Wallace was released in October 2013 just days before he died of liver cancer. A federal judge overturned his conviction on the basis of the systematic exclusion of women from the grand jury during his 1974 trial.

“A remedy to the injustice inflicted on Albert Woodfox by the state is long overdue,” said Tessa Murphy.

“Herman Wallace gained his freedom only to die within days. Justice must not again be so cruelly delayed.”

Background information

Louisiana must end its campaign of vengeance against Albert Woodfox (press release).

Justice deferred to the end (press release).

USA: 100 years in solitary: The 'Angola 3' and their fight for justice (report).

After the death of Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox’s co-defendant in the “Angola 3 case”, Amnesty International launched a campaign calling on the state of Louisiana to release Albert Woodfox from prison by means of withdrawing their appeal against the US District Court’s ruling.

AI Index: PRE01/001/2014

(PHOTO: Michael Mable, the brother of Albert Woodfox, speaks at the press conference and delivery of petition to free Albert at the Louisiana State Capitol on Oct.21, 2013.)

Drop the vengeance! Free Albert Woodfox!

(Email Action Alert sent by Amnesty USA on Friday, January 3, 2014)

This could be the end of Albert Woodfox's 40-year plus prison nightmare, if you act now.

On Tuesday morning, Jan. 7, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans will hold a hearing to determine Albert's fate. Will they finally act on the 2013 ruling that overturned his conviction and set him free, or shut the door and send him back to another unthinkable year in solitary confinement?

Federal courts have overturned Albert's conviction 3 times. The state of Louisiana has appealed 3 times.

Enough is enough.

Tell the state of Louisiana to end its campaign of vengeance and let Albert go.

Nothing can justify the cruel treatment that Louisiana authorities have inflicted on Albert, one of the famed Angola 3 prisoners.

For decades, the authorities have punished Albert with solitary confinement. He's survived 40 years living in a tiny cell for 23 hours a day, denied meaningful human contact and rehabilitation.

In a deeply flawed verdict, Albert was convicted of murder even though no physical evidence ties him to the crime, the state lost potentially exculpatory evidence, and authorities bribed their key witness.

Albert maintains he was put in solitary confinement in retaliation for organizing prisoners against segregation and other abuses in Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as "Angola".

It's simply unconscionable for the state to hold this man one day longer.

Please help Amnesty International demand freedom for Albert Woodfox. 

Please take action before the Jan. 7 hearing.

Thanks for standing by Albert, and for all you do to defend human dignity for all.

Sincerely,

Jasmine Heiss
Campaigner, Individuals and Communities at Risk
Amnesty International USA

(PHOTO: Amnesty USA's Jasmine Heiss spoke at the Louisiana State Capitol on Oct. 21, 2013.)

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