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Startseite Urgent Actions 2015 02 Louisiana must release Albert Woodfox
UA 029/15
USA (Louisiana)
Abgeschlossen am 24. März 2015
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4.3.2015: NEWS

We wanted to share the latest information on Albert Woodfox's case following his bail hearing on 2 March. Because the proceedings were delayed by a couple of hours, there was not enough time for the Judge to fully consider the case so he has asked both the State and Albert's legal team to submit their arguments to the court by 9 March. There will not be a further hearing; the judge will make his decision based on proceedings at the hearing, as well as both sides' submissions. We have no timeline for this response, but believe that the Judge (who previously granted bail to Albert) will rule as soon as he is able to. Before the issue of bail can be addressed the court needs to decide on whether the state or the federal court holds jurisdiction over the case, and therefore whether the federal court can grant bail.

On 12 February, the state indicted Albert for the third time for the murder of corrections officer Brent Miller in West Feliciana County (jurisdiction closest to Angola prison where the murder took place). The state admitted at the hearing that they may have been too quick to indict Albert as they did so before the federal judge issued the grant of habeas corpus (which in itself can determine release including stipulations on how to move forward with any retrial). There is no/very little legal precedent for what the state did so it will be up to the federal judge to make a determination on legality and implications of the state action.

Robert King, the only living, released member of the Angola Three, was at the hearing. He reports that both sides argued strong precedents for jurisdiction, however, Albert’s lawyers’ arguments were stronger; «Certainly, in the final analysis, significant precedent was presented for the judge to rule in Albert’s favour» however, «the state fought hard to not relinquish jurisdiction to the federal court». Albert, who was at the hearing, is, according to Robert, still optimistic, and waved at the throngs of supporters who had filled the court room for the hearing.

After the indictment, Albert was moved to West Feliciana Parish Jail which is located in St Francisville - about 20 miles from Angola State prison. He is being held in a small cell with a solid steel door (instead of bars as before) that cuts him off from contact with prisoners in nearby cells. He gets yard time three days a week, while visiting days and hours are further restricted than at Wade, and visits continue to be non-contact. A positive development for Albert is that he now has unlimited access to a phone in cell.


You can send solidarity messages to Albert at his current address here:

Albert Woodfox #72148
West Feliciana Parish Detention Center
PO Box 2727
St. Francisville, LA 70775


We ask that you please continue to send appeals.

The E-mail address of the Attorney General had been corrected: it should now be constituentservices@ag.state.la.us rather than constituentservices@aga.state.la.us

 

 

Louisiana muss Albert Woodfox freilassen!

AI-Index: AMR 51/007/2015

Albert Woodfox befindet sich seit 1972 im US-Bundesstaat Louisiana in Einzelhaft. Seine Verurteilung ist im Laufe der letzten 40 Jahre bereits dreimal aufgehoben worden. Die bundesstaatlichen Behörden müssen ihn endlich aus der Haft entlassen. Am 23. Februar soll über seine Freilassung auf Kaution entschieden werden.

Albert Woodfox wurde 1973 gemeinsam mit seinem Mitangeklagten Herman Wallace für schuldig befunden, einen Gefängniswärter der Hafteinrichtung Louisiana State Penitentiary ermordet zu haben. Die Beweise der Staatsanwaltschaft gegen die beiden Männer bestanden vornehmlich aus unzuverlässigen und widersprüchlichen Aussagen von drei Mitinsassen, denen im Gegenzug für ihre Angaben besondere Zugeständnisse gemacht wurden. Ihre Aussagen vor Gericht deckten sich nicht mit den Aussagen, die sie direkt nach dem Mord gemacht hatten. Sachbeweise gegen die beiden Männer lagen keine vor. Der einzige konkrete Beweis, der in dem Verfahren vorgestellt wurde – ein am Tatort gefundener Fingerabdruck –, entlastete die Angeklagten sogar.

Albert Woodfox ist schwarz und wurde von einer nur aus Weissen bestehenden Jury schuldig gesprochen. Fast 20 Jahre lang legten seine Rechtsbeistände immer wieder Rechtsmittel gegen das Urteil ein und erreichten schliesslich, dass das Urteil auf der Grundlage von «unzulänglicher Verteidigung» aufgehoben wurde. 1998 fand eine Neuverhandlung statt, in der die Geschworenen Albert Woodfox erneut des Mordes für schuldig befanden. Aufgrund der mangelhaften Verteidigung, die Albert Woodfox in seinem zweiten Verfahren erhielt, und angesichts der schwachen Beweise der Staatsanwaltschaft gegen ihn wurde 2008 dem 2006 von Albert Woodfox gestellten Antrag auf richterliche Haftprüfung mit dem Ziel der Haftentlassung stattgegeben. Jedoch intervenierte daraufhin Buddy Caldwell, der Justizminister von Louisiana, und beantragte beim zuständigen Berufungsgericht (Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals), Albert Woodfox nicht gegen Kaution freizulassen und zudem die Entscheidung, das Urteil gegen ihn aufzuheben, rückgängig zu machen. Das Berufungsgericht erklärte seine Verurteilung aus verfahrensrechtlichen Gründen wieder für gültig. 2013 wurde sein Fall erneut überprüft; Grundlage war ein Diskriminierungsvorwurf in der Auswahl des Vorsitzenden des Geschworenengerichts. Daraufhin wurde seine Verurteilung zum dritten Mal aufgehoben.

Der Justizminister legte gegen diese Entscheidung erneut vor dem Berufungsgericht Rechtsmittel ein, das Gericht erhielt die Aufhebung des Urteils jedoch aufrecht. Der Justizminister beantragte daraufhin erneut eine Neuverhandlung des Falls, doch dieser Antrag wurde am 4. Februar zurückgewiesen. Am 6. Februar beantragten die Rechtsbeistände von Albert Woodfox seine Freilassung gegen Kaution. Die Anhörung ist für den 23. Februar angesetzt. Der Justizminister hat nun die Möglichkeit, sich gegen die Freilassung auf Kaution auszusprechen und Rechtsmittel beim Obersten Gerichtshof der USA einzulegen. Daher ist es wichtig, im Vorfeld der anstehenden Verhandlung auf die Behörden von Louisiana einzuwirken, Albert Woodfox freizulassen.

Hintergrundinformationen (auf englisch)

In 1972 a young white prison guard named Brent Miller was brutally and fatally stabbed inside Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as “Angola”. Although no physical evidence tied Albert Woodfox or Herman Wallace to the crime, the two men were immediately assumed to be guilty and placed in solitary confinement; 23 hours a day isolated in a small cell, four steps long, three steps across. Both Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace were eventually convicted of the crime after trials rife with constitutional violations and other legal issues. Together with fellow prisoner Robert King, who was investigated in connection with Brent Miller’s murder but convicted instead of the murder of a prison inmate, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace came to be known as the Angola Three. All three men spent decades in cruel, inhuman and degrading solitary confinement cells. Robert King was released after 29 years of this dehumanizing treatment. On 1 October 2013 Herman Wallace was finally granted his freedom after a federal judge overturned his conviction on the basis of the systematic exclusion of women from the grand jury that indicted him in 1973. It took a terminal diagnosis of cancer to compel the federal court to expedite their ruling on Herman Wallace’s case and a judge who recognized that “the Louisiana courts, when presented with the opportunity to correct this error, failed to do so”. Herman Wallace lived just days in freedom before he died.
In the past 41 years, significant flaws in the legal process have also come to light. In addition to racial discrimination in the selection of a grand jury foreperson, the state’s case is riddled with inconsistencies and missteps. A bloody print at the murder scene does not match Albert Woodfox or Herman Wallace and was never compared with the other prisoners who had access to the dormitory on the day of the murder. Potentially exculpatory DNA evidence has been “lost” by prison officials – including fingernail scrapings from the victim and barely visible “specks” of blood on clothing allegedly worn by Albert Woodfox. Both he and Herman Wallace had multiple alibi witnesses with nothing to gain who testified they were far away from the scene when the murder occurred. In contrast, several State witnesses lied under oath about rewards for their testimony. Some later retracted their testimony. The prosecution’s star witness, Hezekiah Brown, a convicted serial rapist serving life, agreed to testify only in exchange for a weekly carton of cigarettes, television, birthday cakes, and other luxuries. He was eventually pardoned.
The Angola Three have long maintained that they are innocent. They believe that they were convicted and placed in solitary confinement in retaliation for their activism and outspoken critique of injustice. After they were initially imprisoned on unrelated robbery charges, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace helped found a prison chapter of the Black Panther Party. The men campaigned for better treatment, racial solidarity, and an end to the brutal sexual slavery that was pervasive in Angola. More than a decade ago the three men filed a civil lawsuit challenging the inhumane and increasingly pervasive practice of long-term solitary confinement. Magistrate Judge Dalby describes their almost four decades of solitary as “durations so far beyond the pale” she could not find “anything even remotely comparable in the annals of American jurisprudence”.
Thousands of prisoners across the USA – more than an estimated 80,000 – remain in prolonged or indefinite isolation, confined to small cells for 22-24 hours a day, often in units designed to reduce sensory and environmental stimulation. Exercise is typically limited to no more than five to 10 hours a week and is often taken in bare yards with no equipment or view of the outside world. Prisoners in administrative or punitive segregation usually have no access to work or meaningful rehabilitation or recreational programs and may spend years with minimal human contact. The use of long-term segregation as a management tool to control prisoners for security or behavioural reasons is being increasingly challenged by US penal experts and others as costly, ineffective, and inhumane. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has called on states to limit their use of solitary confinement, applying it “only in exceptional circumstances and for the shortest possible period of time”. Of particular concern is prolonged solitary confinement, which the Special Rapporteur defines as any period of solitary confinement in excess of 15 days. He is aware of the arbitrary nature of the effort to establish a moment in time which an already harmful regime becomes prolonged and therefore unacceptably painful. He concludes that after 15 days it becomes “prolonged solitary confinement” because at that point, according to the literature surveyed, some of the harmful psychological effects of isolation can become irreversible. He has called for the absolute prohibition of solitary confinement in the case of children under 18 and persons with mental disabilities, on the ground that its imposition in such cases, for any duration, is cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

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