Albert Woodfox Freed Solitary Confinement 43 Years
Albert Woodfox Freed Solitary Confinement 43 Years
NBC News

Albert Woodfox Freed After Spending Longest Stretch In Solitary Confinement In U.S. History

Albert Woodfox is the last of the "Angola 3" to be freed.

On Friday (Feb. 19), his 69th birthday, Albert Woodfox became the last of the “Angola 3” to be released from prison after spending 43 years in solitary confinement. The longest stretch of solitary imprisonment in U.S. history, Woodfox was charged in the murder of then 23-year-old prison guard Brent Miller, who was stabbed to death during a riot at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, also referred to as Angola. After reaching a deal where he pleaded no contest to manslaughter and aggravated burglary, Woodfox was sentenced to 43 years, but freed for having been in prison for 45.

In an interview with NOLA.com, Woodfox, who maintains his innocence to this day, recalled himself and the two other prisoners who were placed in solitary confinement after Miller’s death, Robert King and Herman Wallace, holding onto their faith for justice. Wallace was released in 2013, and died three days later from liver cancer complications. King was released in 2001, after 29 years in solitary. Woodfox shared the mindstate of being confined to the six-by-nine foot cell for 23 hours a day for over four decades.

"You pace, you know. Walk up and down the cell...And you fight the urge to take off all your clothes, 'cause...you feel like everything is weighing you down," he said. "You go through this psychological self-analysis and then you talking to yourself, and telling yourself that you strong enough...Just trying to push these walls back and the ceiling back with the force of mind."

Upon his release, Woodfox released a statement thanking everyone who has supported him in his battle for freedom:

"I want to thank my brother Michel for sticking with me all these years, and Robert King, who wrongly spent nearly 30 years in solitary. I could not have survived without their courageous support, along with the support of my dear friend Herman Wallace, who passed away in 2013. I also wish to thank the many members of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3, Amnesty International, and the Roddick Foundation, all of whom supported me through this long struggle. Lastly, I thank William Sothern, Rob McDuff and my lawyers at Squire Patton Boggs and Sanford Heisler Kimpel for never giving up. Although I was looking forward to proving my innocence at a new trial, concerns about my health and my age have caused me to resolve this case now and obtain my release with this no-contest plea to lesser charges. I hope the events of today will bring closure to many."

The story of the “Angola 3” has led to a debate on the constitutionality of solitary confinement, as Woodfox and others campaign against it, calling it cruel and unusual punishment. Most recently, President Obama has enacted an executive order to ban the use of solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prison. U.S. Rep. Ced Richmond is also among those fighting against solitary, calling it “inhumane.”

"The story of the Angola 3 has shined a light on one of the most inhumane practices in our criminal justice system," U.S. Rep. Ced Richmond said in the statement. "What happened to Mr. Woodfox was cruel and I don't think it will ever be easy to understand, but that process will only be eased if we do all we can to ensure that no one else has to endure the same."

Woodfox credits the teachings of Malcolm X, Dr. Matin Luther King Jr and the Black Panther party for preventing him from becoming “institutionalized” during his imprisonment. He now hopes to become a social activist alongside King.

"I learned how strong the human spirit can be, that the change has to come from within. I learned that although human beings do horrible things sometimes, they still have worth,” he told NOLA.com. “And that there should be a certain amount of dignity given to every human being even though they're in prison," he said. "And that's not the way it is now."

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Government Shutdown Prompts Hunger Strike Inside Manhattan Jail

As the country enters its 26th day since the partial government shutdown, some inmates inside a Manhattan detention center have decided to partake in a hunger strike after family visits were canceled for the second week due to a lack of staffing.

According to the New York Times, inmates at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, or M.C.C have denied their breakfast and lunch meals. The facility, which holds about 800, is one of the most important in the federal prison system and has housed few infamous names including Mexican drug leader El Chapo and terrorists.

Federal public defender Sarah Baumgartel said she learned of the hunger strike from a detainee she represents. Baumgartel declined to identify the inmate out of fear he'd be singled out. "They have already refused a meal — I believe they refused breakfast and lunch.”

Along with canceled family visits, the dispensing of medication to inmates in need has also been affected. The New York Times reports a prosecutor inside a federal court was "informed" that because of the shutdown, there are issues with prescribing medication.”

On Monday (Jan. 16) Bureau of Prisons lawyer Adam Johnson emailed  defense lawyers stating “due to staff shortages,” attorneys would not be able to speak with their clients at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center. "We regret the inconvenience and will notify you immediately once visiting resumes.”

The partial government shutdown is a stand off between Donald Trump's demands for funding to construct a wall along the U.S- Mexican border and a newly elected Democratic Congress refusing to acquiesce.

Since then, more than 800,000 employees have gone without pay.

 

 

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Man Leaves Marijuana In An Uber And Tries To Retrieve It From Cops

A 21-year-old Pennsylvania man is in police custody after attempting to retrieve two pounds of marijuana from a state trooper he believed was his Uber driver.

According to reports, the driver received an email Dec. 29 from Uber about the previous rider Malik Mollett, who left something in the backseat of the vehicle. In the email was Mollett's phone number.

On Jan. 9, a state trooper posed as an Uber driver and called Mollett. Police said Mollett answered the phone, explained he left something in the Uber. The trooper and Mollett then agreed to meet, Mollett said the bag he left was black, the trooper texted Mollett a picture of the black bag and he confirmed that it was indeed his.

TWO pounds of marijuana left behind in an Uber — police say Malik Mollett thought he was meeting up with the driver to get it back, but it was actually state troopers. I’ll have more on this story tonight on #WPXI pic.twitter.com/ZJGP7kU29Z

— Melanie Marsalko (@WPXIMelanie) January 11, 2019

The trooper than coordinated a time to meet with Mollett at a local McDonald's. It was there, the trooper gave Mollett the bag. Another trooper reportedly then entered the McDonalds and took Mollett into police custody.

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Florida Pardons Four Black Men Wrongfully Convicted Of Rape In 1949

The state of Florida is attempting to make amends.

Gov. Ron DeSantis posthumously pardoned Samuel Shepherd, Walter Irvin, Earnest Thomas and Charles Greenlee Friday (Jan. 11), decades after the court system destroyed their lives

On July 16, 1949, Shepherd, Irvin, Greenlee and Thomas, known as “The Groveland Four,” were convicted of gang raping a 17-year-old married white woman who claimed that she was attacked on the side of a road in Groveland, Fla.

“For seventy years, these four men have had their history wrongly written for crimes they did not commit,” DeSantis said in a statement.

“As I have said before, while that is a long time to wait, it is never too late to do the right thing,” he continued. “I believe the rule of law is society’s sacred bond. When it is trampled, we all suffer. For the Groveland Four, the truth was buried. The Perpetrators celebrated. But justice has cried out from that day until this.”

The accuser, Norma Padgett, and her husband, Willie, claimed that she had been gang raped after their car broke down. There was no evidence to prove that a sexual assault occurred, and prosecutors were accused of manipulating and withholding crucial information in the case.

Irvin and Shepherd, both 22, were friends and World War II veterans. They acknowledged asking the couple if they needed help after spotting them on the side of the road. Greenlee, a 16-year-old newlywed, was “being detained 20 miles away” from the location where the Padgetts claimed the rape occurred. He was at a train station waiting to go job hunting with Thomas when police arrested him. The teen denied that he and Thomas were involved in the alleged rape.

Nonetheless, Irvin, Shepherd and Greenlee were all charged with rape. Thomas, also a newlywed at the time, was “presumed guilty” but fled before police could arrest him. A violent posse of more than 1,000 men went out to search for him. They caught up with Thomas and killed him in a “hail of gunfire” as he slept next to a tree. His death was ruled a justifiable homicide.

The others were arrested and severely beaten by police, subsequently forcing them into false confessions, with the exception of Irvin who maintained his innocence. Another member of the group had his home burned down by an angry mob.

An all-white jury convicted the men of rape and sentenced Irvin and Shepherd to death. Greenlee was sentenced to life in prison because he was a minor.

Thurgood Marshall, then an Executive Director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, appealed the ruling. A retrial was ordered in April of 1951. Seven months later, Lake County Sheriff Willis McCall shot Shepherd and Irvin during a prison transfer. McCall claimed that he gunned them down because they were attempting to escape. Shepherd died instantly.

Irvin survived after being shot in the neck while laying on the ground, handcuffed to Shepherd.

Irvin was refused medical attention because of his race. He was later retried in court, reconvicted and sentenced to death. The sentence was eventually commuted to life in prison. Irvin was paroled in 1969. He was found dead in his car a year after his release.

Greenlee, the last living member of the four, was paroled in 1960. He died in 2012, at age 78.

Norma Padgett, now 86 years old, opposed the men receiving pardons and maintains her story.

The pardons were approved nearly a year after state legislators issued a resolution urging the governor to move forward with the process. Lawmakers also offered a “heartfelt apology” to the families of Greenlee,  Irvin, Shepherd and Thomas “for the enduring sorrow caused by the criminal justice system’s failure to protect their basic constitutional rights.”

See more on the case below.

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