Albert Woodfox, 69, was released on time served after pleading no contest to manslaughter in the 1972 death of a prison guard.
Albert Woodfox was the last of a group known as “Angola Three” for their decades-long stays in isolation.
Albert Woodfox raised his fist defiantly as he walked out of his prison gates after 43 years behind bars.
In a statement, Woodfox thanked his lawyers “and my brother Michael for sticking with me all these years”.
Woodfox, who turned 69 on Friday, maintains his innocence, but said concerns about his health and age “caused me to resolve this case now and obtain my release”.
Wallace, a dying member of Louisiana’s “Angola Three” inmates who spent 41 years in solitary confinement for a killing he says he didn’t commit, was freed on October 1, 2013 after a federal judge ruled that he did not get a fair trial in 1974.
US District Judge James Brady ordered his release in June and barred a third trial, saying the state could not try Woodfox fairly more than 40 years after Miller’s death. Woodfox had been convicted twice for the crime and was facing a third prior to Friday’s release. “I hope the events of today will bring closure to many”. But it does stand as a conviction, and Woodfox was freed after being given credit for time served.
Woodfox and his co-defendant, Herman Wallace, said they were charged in retaliation for founding a prison chapter of the Black Panther Party.
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’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.
Juan Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, said the indefinite solitary confinement imposed on Mr Woodfox “clearly amounts to torture and it should be lifted immediately”.
KC Cornell The “Angola Three” spent decades-long confinement in isolation at the Louisiana prison in Angola and others elsewhere.
As part of their activism, the three are said to have petitioned an end to segregation in the prison, as well as protecting new inmates from sexual assault.
As Times staff writer Miguel Bustillo wrote in 2008: “The Louisiana State Penitentiary was infamous in the ’60s and ’70s as the bloodiest in the South, a place where guards routinely beat prisoners and inmates killed one another with crude knives”.
“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. He has spent 45 years in prison.
Woodfox had legal proceedings pending in state and federal courts, attorneys said. As the Times-Picayune reports, a “grand jury indicted him February 12, 2015, for a third time in the decades-old murder”.