“My soul cries from all that I witnessed and endured. It does more than cry, it mourns continuously,” said Black Panther Robert Hillary King, following his release from the infamous Louisiana State Penitentiary at
Robert King, Albert Woodfox, and Herman Wallace are known as the ‘Angola Three,’ a trio of political prisoners whose supporters include Amnesty International, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Congressman John Conyers, and the ACLU. Kgalema Mothlante, the President of South Africa says their case “has the potential of laying bare, exposing the shortcomings, in the entire
The joint federal civil rights lawsuit of King, Woodfox, and Wallace, alleging that their time in solitary confinement is “cruel and unusual punishment,” will go to trial any month in
An 18,000-acre former slave plantation in rural
The Angola Panthers saw life at
Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace
Both convicted of murder for the April 17, 1972 stabbing death of white prison guard Brent Miller, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace have recently had major victories in court that may soon lead to their release. In response,
Woodfox and Wallace were inmates at
On September 19, 2006, State Judicial Commissioner Rachel Morgan recommended overturning Wallace’s conviction, on grounds that prison officials had withheld evidence from the jury that prison officials had bribed the prosecution’s key eyewitness, Hezekiah Brown, in return for his testimony. However, in May 2008, in a 2-1 vote, the State Appeals Court rejected Morgan’s recommendation and refused to overturn the conviction. Wallace’s appeal is now pending in the State Supreme Court, with a decision expected any month.
On June 10th, 2008, Federal Magistrate Christine Noland recommended overturning Woodfox’s conviction, citing evidence of inadequate representation, prosecutorial misconduct, suppression of exculpatory evidence, and racial discrimination. Then, on November 25, US District Court Judge James Brady upheld Noland’s recommendation, overturned the conviction, and granted bail. Attorney General Caldwell responded by appealing to the US Fifth Circuit. In December, the Fifth Circuit granted Caldwell’s request to deny Woodfox bail, but indicated sympathy for the overturning of the conviction, writing: "We are not now convinced that the State has established a likelihood of success on the merits." On March 3, oral arguments were heard by appellate Judges Carolyn Dineen King, Carl E. Steart and Leslie H. Southwick, and a decision from them is now expected within six months. If the three judge panel affirms the overturning of Woodfox’s conviction, the state will have 120 days to either accept the ruling or to retry Woodfox. The state has already vowed to retry him if necessary. If the Fifth Circuit rules for the state, Woodfox’s conviction will be reinstated.
Ira Glasser, formerly of the ACLU, criticized AG Caldwell, writing that following the October 2008 announcement that Woodfox’s niece had agreed to take him in if granted bail,
When the October 27-29 National Public Radio (NPR) series on the case reported directly from
As NPR documented, there is no physical evidence linking Woodfox or Wallace to the murder. A bloody fingerprint was found at the scene but it matches neither prisoner’s prints. Prison officials have always refused to test that fingerprint against their own inmate fingerprint database.
Pardoned in 1986, and now deceased, Brown always denied receiving special favors from prison authorities in exchange for his testimony. However, prison documents reveal special treatment, including special housing and a carton of cigarettes given to him every week. Testifying at Woodfox’s 1998 retrial, former Warden Murray Henderson admitted telling Brown that if he provided testimony helping to “crack the case,” he would reward him by lobbying for his pardon.
In early 2008, a 25,000-signature petition initiated by ColorOfChange.org, calling for an investigation into Woodfox and Wallace’s convictions and solitary confinement, was delivered to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal by the head of the State Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, Cedric Richmond. To this day, Jindal remains silent on the case.
In March, 2008, following a visit from Congressman John Conyers, Chairman of the US House Judiciary Committee; Innocence Project founder Barry Scheck; and Cedric Richmond, Wallace and Woodfox were transferred from solitary and housed together in a newly-built maximum security dormitory for twenty men. This temporary release from solitary lasted for eight months, during which time Woodfox reflected: “The thing I noticed most about being with Herman is the laughing, the talking, the bumping up against one another…we’ve been denied this for so long. And every once in a while he’ll put his arm around me or I’ll put my arm around him. It’s those kinds of things that make you human. And we’re truly enjoying that.”
In April, following his visit, Conyers wrote a letter to the FBI requesting their documents relating to the case, stating: “I am deeply troubled by what evidence suggests was a tragic miscarriage of justice with regard to these men. There is significant evidence that suggests not only their innocence, but also troubling misconduct by prison officials.” The FBI responded by claiming that they had no files on the case, because, they had supposedly been destroyed.
In his deposition taken October 22, 2008, Warden Burl Cain explained why he opposed granting Woodfox bail and removing him from solitary confinement. Asked what gave him “such concern” about Woodfox, Cain stated: “He wants to demonstrate. He wants to organize. He wants to be defiant…A hunger strike is really, really bad, because you could see he admitted that he was organizing a peaceful demonstration. There is no such thing as a peaceful demonstration in prison.” Cain then stated that even if Woodfox were innocent of the murder, he would still want to keep him in solitary, because “I still know he has a propensity for violence…he is still trying to practice Black Pantherism, and I still would not want him walking around my prison because he would organize the young new inmates. I would have me all kinds of problems, more than I could stand, and I would have the blacks chasing after them. I would have chaos and conflict, and I believe that.”
The only other known
Robert Hillary King
The new book From the Bottom of the Heap: The Autobiography of Robert Hillary King has just been released by PM Press, and King is currently touring the East Coast to promote the book. This inspiring book tells of King’s triumph over the horrors of
King first entered
Upon release, King was again arrested on robbery charges, and was convicted, even though his co-defendant testified that he had only picked King out of a mug shot lineup after being tortured by police into making a false statement. King appealed, and while being held at New Orleans Parish Prison, he escaped, but was re-captured weeks later. Upon returning to Orleans Parish he met some of the
In 1972, King moved to
King writes about the fight, started in 1977, to end the practice of routine rectal searches of prisoners: “Coming to a consensus conclusion that this practice was a carryover from slavery (before being sold, the slave had to be stripped and subjected to anal examination), and after months of appealing to our keepers, we decided to take a bold step: we would simply refuse a voluntary anal search. We would not be willing participants in our own degradation.” When King and others refused, they were viciously beaten. Woodfox hired a lawyer on the prisoners’ behalf and they filed a successful civil suit. The court ruled to ban “routine anal searches.” Another victory came after a one month hunger strike that stopped the unhealthy and dehumanizing practice of putting the inmate’s food on the floor to be slid underneath the cell door, whereby food would often be lost and the remaining food would usually get dirty.
In 1973, King was accused of murdering another prisoner, and was convicted at a trial where he was bound and gagged. After years of maintaining his innocence and appealing, his conviction was overturned in 2001, after he reluctantly pled guilty to a lesser charge of “conspiracy to commit murder” and was released on time served.
Kenny “Zulu” Whitmore
On June 21, 2008, Robert King attended the unveiling of a 40-foot mosaic dedicated to
The mosaic adorns the back of activist/artist Carrie Reichardt’s home in the
Imprisoned since 1977, Whitmore met Herman Wallace while imprisoned in 1973 at the East Baton Rouge Prison. Whitmore was released but then arrested and subsequently imprisoned at
Three court cases are now pending: the federal civil rights lawsuit at the US Middle District Court, Albert Woodfox’s appeal at the US Fifth Circuit, and Wallace’s appeal at the State Supreme Court. At this critical stage, a new DVD has just been released by PM Press, titled The Angola 3: Black Panthers and the Last Slave Plantation. The DVD is narrated by death-row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, and features footage of King’s 2001 release, as well as an interview with King and a variety of former Panthers and other supporters of the Angola 3, including Bo Brown, David Hilliard, Geronimo Ji Jaga (formerly Pratt), Marion Brown, Luis Talamantez, Noelle Hanrahan, Malik Rahim, and the late Anita Roddick.
The perpetuation of white supremacy and slavery at
Longtime Japanese-American activist Yuri Kochiyama says that Woodfox and Wallace “love people and will fight for justice even if it puts them on the spot. I think of them as real heroes…who hated to see people in the prison get hurt.” San Francisco journalist and former BPP member Kiilu Nyasha adds that “it behooves us to not forget those who were on the frontlines for us….We need to come to their rescue because they came to ours.”
The many years of repression and torture have failed to extinguish the
For more information, please visit www.angola3.org
11-year old Brit "Poppy" visited Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace for four hours on August 8, 2008. Poppy said afterwards: “When I first saw Herman and Albert I ran up to them and gave them a huge hug. It was weird to think that this is a rare treat for them, just to have a hug from another human being.”
VIDEO: Robert King Wilkerson (one of the Angola 3) and Louisiana House Judiciary Chairman Cedric Richmond deliver 25,000 petition signatures from ColorOfChange.org members calling on Governor Jindal to investigate and intervene in the Angola 3 case.
VIDEO: Outraged by the injustice of their situation after having visited Herman and Albert in March of 2008, Conyers spoke about the case at the Student National Medical Association's (SNMA) annual conference.
VIDEO: The first official act from the Angola 3 London - an unveiling of a mosaic on the back of The Treatment Rooms in Chiswick, by Baroness von Reichardt. The mosaic is dedicated to the memory of Anita Roddick who first introduced the Baroness to Herman Wallace one of the Angola 3 in solitary confinement in Louisiana State Penitentiary - "The Farm". The ceramics within the mural contain life enriching quotes from both Herman and Anita. Power to the People!
Created by www.bondageforfreedom.com To raise awareness of The Angola 3. Sung by The Gospel Choir of Chowchilla Female Prison, California.