After 43 years in solitary confinement, two overturned convictions, and two documentaries on his case, freedom could finally be at hand for Albert Woodfox. A federal judge has ordered the release of the 67-year-old, who was placed in solitary in 1972 after the death of a guard in a riot at Louisiana State Penitentiary, which is better known as Angola, the Guardian reports. In his ruling, US District Judge James Brady took the unusual step of banning the state from trying Woodfox for the guard's murder for a third time, citing his age, health, the "prejudice done onto" him by more than 40 years in solitary confinement, and "the very fact that Mr. Woodfox has already been tried twice," the AP reports.
Woodfox, who was in prison for armed robbery at the time of the guard's death, has always maintained his innocence and says he and the two other members of the "Angola Three" were singled out because of their Black Panther activism, reports the Guardian. A supporter tells the AP that the order for unconditional release is a "unicorn" because it is so rare—although the state seems determined to keep Woodfox behind bars. Officials say Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell is seeking an emergency stay "to make sure this murderer stays in prison and remains fully accountable for his actions," the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. Fellow Angola Three member Robert King was freed in 2001, and the third man, Herman Wallace, died two days after his release in 2013. (Read more Louisiana stories.)