Court: Man in Solitary Since 1972 Can Be Tried 3rd Time

Louisiana accused of pursuing 'vengeance over justice'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 10, 2015 12:38 AM CST
Court: Man in Solitary Since 1972 Can Be Tried 3rd Time
This undated photo provided by the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 shows Albert Woodfox.   (Courtesy of International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 via AP)

Louisiana can keep "Angola Three" inmate Albert Woodfox in jail and continue its plans to try him a third time in the 1972 killing of a prison guard, a federal appeals court ruled Monday. The 2-1 decision by the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals reverses a June order by US District Judge James Brady that ordered Woodfox's release. Brady had barred a third trial, saying the state could not try Woodfox fairly more than 40 years after the killing of guard Brent Miller. The 5th Circuit disagreed. "The district court abused its discretion by barring retrial and by granting the extraordinary remedy of an unconditional writ," Judge Carolyn Dineen King wrote for the majority.

In a dissent, Judge James L. Dennis said Brady's ruling should be upheld. "If ever a case justifiably could be considered to present 'exceptional circumstances' barring reprosecution, this is that case," he wrote. Woodfox is the last still-incarcerated member of a group that supporters dubbed the "Angola Three" for their decades-long stays in isolation at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola and other state prisons. The 68-year-old has consistently maintained his innocence in Miller's death. Judge Brady had noted that 43 years have passed since the crime, key witnesses have died, and there is no physical evidence linking Woodfox to the guard's stabbing. In a statement, Amnesty International USA accused the state of pursuing "vengeance over justice." (More Louisiana stories.)

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