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KPFA's Africa Today on Albert Woodfox w/ Robert H. King and Amnesty USA's Jasmine Heiss
This episode of the KPFA radio show 'Africa Today' with host Walter Turner, was aired live on February 23, 2015 at 7:00pm.
RECENT NEWS ON ALBERT WOODFOX
VIDEO: Citing '43 Years of Injustice,' Amnesty International interviews UN Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez about Albert Woodfox
(posted Feb. 19)
Sign the new Amnesty petition to Gov. Jindal!
Amnesty International has just released a new video entitled "Free Albert Woodfox: 43 Years of Injustice," (on You Tube and Facebook) featuring an interview with Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The video was made in support of Amnesty's new petition campaign focusing on Albert's pending application for release on bail.
In 2013, declaring that “Four decades in solitary confinement can only be described as torture,” Mendez called for Albert's immediate release from solitary confinement. Speaking about Albert in this new video, Juan Mendez says:
"Mr. Woodfox is spending his days in solitary confinement…His convictions have been reversed and the State is appealing them, so in fact he should be considered an innocent man until his guilt or innocence is resolved."
"There’s no question that his conditions inflict on him the kind of pain and suffering of a mental nature that is associated with torture and I think that should stop."
Louisiana Takes First Step to Retry Albert Woodfox --AG Caldwell Continues to Obstruct Justice But Albert Does Not Fear A Trial
(posted Feb. 12)
UPDATE (Feb. 18): Until he knows if he will be released on bail, Albert is being held in isolation at West Feliciana Parish Detention Center, a small city jail with only a few dozen prisoners at any one time. His new mailing address at this facility is:
Albert Woodfox #72148
West Feliciana Parish Detention Center
PO Box 2727
St. Francisville, LA 70775
MEDIA COVERAGE: James Gill, The Advocate
On February 11, the State of Louisiana took the first step toward a retrial and announced that a grand jury has re-indicted Albert a third time for the murder of Brent Miller.
Though we continue to hope that the State will stop wasting taxpayer money on the prosecution and torture of this innocent man, Albert looks forward to being able to prove to the world once and for all that he is innocent.
We will update you as more information becomes available, and in the meantime urge you to join over 16,000 people in the US alone (and thousands more abroad) in signing Amnesty's new petition calling for Albert's immediate release.
Amnesty USA Responds to the Indictment
In response to today's announcement of the indictment of Albert Woodfox, Amnesty International USA Executive Director Steven W. Hawkins issued the following statement:
"Attorney General Caldwell has made it clear that he is hell-bent on keeping Albert Woodfox behind bars-despite the fact that his conviction has been overturned three times, and an appeals court has affirmed that decision. He should stop pursuing a campaign of vengeance by trying to re-indict a man who has already spent more than four decades in cruel confinement, after a legal process tainted with flaws.
"His public accusations that Albert is a 'serial rapist' not only cross ethical boundaries, but inflame the public against a man who has suffered unspeakable cruelty at the hands of the Louisiana authorities. Albert Woodfox has never been tried or convicted of rape, and the accusations are entirely absent from 4 decades of trial transcripts.
"A week before his birthday, Albert should be looking forward to a bail hearing; not facing another legal hurdle in a life that has been more than half-spent in solitary.
"Attorney General Caldwell took the same action against Herman Wallace after his release: re-indicting him while he was on his deathbed, suffering from liver cancer. It is time for him to stop standing in the way of justice."
NOLA Times-Picayune Reports
Yesterday, following news of the indictment, Emily Lane of the Times-Picayune quoted lawyer George Kendall: "We are extremely disappointed in today's indictment of Albert Woodfox who has maintained his innocence since he was charged 42 years ago. This case has already spanned four decades and cost Louisiana millions of dollars, while Mr. Woodfox has been unjustly held in solitary confinement."
Lane's article also cited Tory Pegram from the A3 Coalition: "If the state really wants to go down this road, they will be reminded there is no physical evidence that links him to the crime, and witnesses have all been impeached or recanted...We are happy to say he will have the opportunity to demonstrate to the world that (Woodfox) did not commit this crime."
Please take action for Albert Woodfox: New Amnesty Intl. Petition to Gov. Jindal Calls for the State to Not Oppose Bail
(posted Feb. 11)
We are excited to announce that Amnesty International has started a new petition in support of Albert Woodfox's February 6 bail request that he filed in response to the favorable Fifth Circuit Court ruling on February 3. The full text of an email sent out today by Amnesty, describing the campaign, is featured below.
Please take action now!
Freedom is just around the corner
For more than four decades, Albert Woodfox has been held in solitary confinement: first in the infamous Louisiana State Penitentiary (also known as Angola Prison) and later in David Wade Correctional Center.
Albert spends 23 hours a day isolated in a small cell - four steps long and three steps across - with no access to meaningful social interaction or rehabilitation.
Last Friday, Albert's legal team filed for bail. With your help, he could finally walk free.
Albert has been imprisoned for nearly 43 years for the second-degree murder of prison guard Brent Miller in 1972. He has been fighting to prove his innocence in a legal process tainted with flaws.
No physical evidence ties Albert to the crime. Brent Miller's widow has said she believes that Albert is innocent. The Federal courts have overturned Albert's conviction three times.
Despite all of this, the state of Louisiana has appealed three times and spent millions of dollars in legal fees during Albert's 40-year struggle for freedom. The state authorities seem hell-bent on keeping him behind bars.
Allowing Albert his freedom is the only just and humane action the state can take after decades of holding him in cruel and inhuman conditions. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal must ensure that the state stops standing in the way of Albert's freedom.
Tell the Governor: Stop wasting valuable taxpayer resources. Help ensure Albert's release without further delay. It is imperative that justice delayed does not become justice denied.
Albert has endured the unthinkable. It is unconscionable to hold him for a single day longer.
It's time for him to walk free.
With hope for justice,
Senior Campaigner, Individuals at Risk
Amnesty International USA
Albert Woodfox Applies for Bail With Expedited Review --Freedom Is Just Around the Corner
(posted Feb. 6)
MEDIA COVERAGE: NOLA Times-Picayune
This afternoon Albert Woodfox's legal team submitted an application to US District Court Judge James A. Brady for release on bail with expedited review (View the court filing here).
This month marks 2 years since Albert's conviction was overturned for a third time based on a finding of racial discrimination in the selection of his grand jury foreperson, a decision now firmly upheld by a unanimous panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Though the Attorney General may continue to stand in the way of justice and appeal yet again to the US Supreme Court and/or attempt to retry him, Albert's attorneys argue that there is no legal or moral justification to hold him in prison any longer, nor any reason to believe the State of Louisiana could succeed in reconvicting him in a fair proceeding.
In a moving petition, they detail not just the legal underpinnings of freeing those wrongfully convicted, but also the deeply flawed legal processes that have resulted in this innocent man spending an unconscionable 4 decades in a solitary cell. As they point out, "the State has now had not just one but two chances to convict Mr. Woodfox at a trial that passes constitutional muster, and failed."
The application reminds the Court that the State itself during the appeals process admitted that if Albert were to prevail "re-trying him for a crime that occurred more than 40 years ago...may render retrial difficult, even impossible."
But regardless of whether the State elects to retry Albert or not, as another federal district court concluded, "[T]he liberty interest of an improperly convicted prisoner is stronger than any injury that may be caused to the [State] in releasing petitioner from custody pending retrial."). Indeed, a prisoner, "suffers irreparable harm each day that he is imprisoned in violation of the United States Constitution."
Certainly the reality of Albert's grossly inhumane conditions of confinement only make this harm more egregious and the urgency for release more compelling.
An expedited hearing date of Monday, February 23rd has been requested. We will let you know as soon as we hear anything from the Court.
Good News! 5th Circuit Rejects AG Caldwell's Request for En Banc Hearing --Early Birthday Present for Albert
(posted Feb. 3)
Today the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the unanimous decision of their own three judge panel and denied Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's request for an "en banc" rehearing of Albert's case. This was the State's last shot to reinstate Albert's third overturned conviction through the US Court of Appeals.
Though we expect they may continue to delay justice with a vain attempt to convince the US Supreme Court to undo decades of solidly established Constitutional law, Judge Brady's original February 2013 decision throwing out Albert's murder conviction stands stronger than ever before and it is now only a matter of time until the State is forced to either release or retry him.
In just over two weeks, on Thursday, February 19th, Albert will turn 68 years old. Though there are still weeks and months yet to go before he is released, he has never been closer to freedom.
Please take a moment to send him a note letting him know that we will continue to fight every day until he is freed--this will be the last birthday he will spend in a solitary cell!
Albert Woodfox #72148
David Wade Correctional Center
670 Bell Hill Road
Homer, LA 71040