A United States prisoner who spent four decades in solitary confinement has been released from jail.
Brent Miller, a guard at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, was killed in 1972.
He was released on Friday – his 69th birthday – after pleading “no contest” to manslaughter. He and two other men became known as “Angola Three”, a group that was the focus of worldwide efforts rallying against their solitary confinement and the conditions of their imprisonment.
In a press release earlier on Friday, Woodfox thanked his brother and other supporters who have lobbied over the years for his release.
Woodfox was convicted twice of murdering Miller, with both decisions being overturned due to inadequate legal representation and racial discrimination during grand jury selection.
King was released from prison in 2001 and Wallace was set free in 2013 after it was learned that he had terminal liver cancer. Prosecutors had sought to try him a third time, but his release was ordered by a federal judge last June. “I hope the events of today will bring closure to many”. The terms of the plea agreement included a 42-year prison sentence for Woodfox – and since he has already served longer than that sentence calls for, he was released. Eve says the Angola Three have long maintained “they were framed for the prison guard’s murder as retaliation for involvement in the Black Panther movement”.
Under Woodfox’s plea Friday to lesser charges of manslaughter and aggravated burglary, he does not admit guilt but also gives up his right to appeal the conviction.
Woodfox, 69, was awaiting a third trial after having two convictions overturned. They exemplified the fight against the racist prison industrial complex and mass incarceration that has grown exponentially over the decades they have been locked up in solitary confinement.
Woodfox is one of the men dubbed, “The Angola Three”. King said a hearing Tuesday for Herman Wallace will show that the key witness linking Wallace to the killing of a prison guard was paid for by the former warden.
“There were serious questions about whether a conviction would be viable”, one of Woodfox’s attorneys, Katherine Kimpel of Washington, told the Los Angeles Times on Friday.
Lawyers for Woodfox reportedly said that the plea came after “tough negotiations” with Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry.
Woodfox’s release comes as the country is increasingly shifting away from solitary confinement in the wake of research showing that it can have a devastating impact on people, with research showing that it produces catastrophic psychological effects. Parnell Herbert, a boyhood friend of Woodfox’s, said it was unclear where Woodfox would end up living but that he would likely spend his time advocating for prisoners and doing “positive work in the community”.
“After more than four decades, the Attorney General’s Office has brought finality to the matter of State of Louisiana versus Albert Woodfox“.