A US judge has ordered the unconditional release of Albert Woodfox, the country’s longest-serving solitary confinement prisoner, who has spent 43 years in isolation behind bars in a Louisiana jail.
Woodfox, 68, was placed in solitary confinement after he was accused of taking part in a riot that led to the death of a prison guard in 1972. He has always maintained his innocence, saying he was framed for the murder because of his membership of the Black Panther Party.
Yesterday Monday June 8, US judge James Brady ordered that he should be released from custody and not subjected to a third trial over the murder. Woodfox has been tried twice in the guard’s death, but both convictions were overturned. The state is seeking to bring him to trial a third time. But Judge Brady said a third trial could not be fair.
The court order said several factors had combined to contribute to his release.
“Mr. Woodfox’s age and poor health, his limited ability to present a defense at a third trial in light of the unavailability of witnesses, this Court’s lack of confidence in the State to provide a fair third trial, the prejudice done onto Mr. Woodfox by spending over forty-years in solitary confinement, and finally the very fact that Mr. Woodfox has already been tried twice and would otherwise face his third trial for a crime that occurred over forty years ago,” the order reads.
Human rights experts have said that the amount of time he has spent in solitary amounts to torture.
Woodfox was an inmate at the Angola prison in 1972 where he was serving time for armed robbery.
Woodfox and two other state prisoners became known as the Angola Three due to their long stretches in solitary confinement at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola.
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