Federal Judge Orders Release of Albert Woodfox, Held 40+ Years in Solitary Confinement [Updated]

The Louisiana State Penitentiary, where Albert Woodfox has been confined.The Louisiana State Penitentiary, where Albert Woodfox has been confined. (Photo: WhisperToMe/Wikipedia)

Updated, June 9, 4.50pm CT: A federal appeals court has temporarily blocked the release of Albert Woodfox.

Also see: Will Albert Woodfox Be Freed? Louisiana Fights Release of Longest-Serving US Prisoner in Solitary

A federal judge has ordered the immediate release of Louisiana prisoner Albert Woodfox, the longest-serving U.S. prisoner in solitary confinement. The state has been vigorous in its efforts to keep the former Black Panther behind bars for a crime he maintains he did not commit.

“Still, I am optimistic this time Albert will be released,” says longtime friend Robert King, who spent years in prison alongside Woodfox as a member of the Angola 3.

Woodfox is the last member of the group who is still fighting for his freedom. King was released in 2001. Herman Wallace died just three days after his release on October 1, 2013. Woodfox turned 68 in February.

Earlier this year a Louisiana grand jury re-indicted Woodfox for the 1972 murder of a prison guard. He and Wallace maintained they were framed for their political activism. Amnesty International responded by calling for Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to “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.”

Today, Federal Judge James Brady issued a writ in the case of Albert Woodfox vs. Burl Cain, Warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, et al. that not only called for Woodfox’s immediate release, but also barred a retrial.

Brady argued this extraordinary decision is merited based on five factors:

“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.”

Many of Woodfox’s attorneys were already planning to be in Louisiana on Tuesday for a court date involving a civil case challenging the solitary confinement of Woodfox, Wallace and King. They hope to win his release tomorrow morning once the court papers are issued.

King says Woodfox is ready to be free despite the conditions he faced in prison.

“I don’t think he’ll have a problem acclimating himself. He had a pretty good concept about what his condition entailed,” says King. “He was able to perceive there would be negative effects, so he was able to think beyond the permitter of his 6×9 cell.”

It remains unclear how Louisiana will acclimate itself to Judge Brady’s ruling. Supporters say it will likely file an emergency appeal with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Read the ruling below.

Albert Woodfox vs. Burl Cain, Warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary et al