Wednesday, April 06, 2011

US Congressional Briefing on Angola 3 and Solitary Confinement

March 27, 2011 Angola 3 News

We are excited to announce that tomorrow there will be a US Congressional
Briefing, in Washington DC, about the Angola 3 and the broader issue of
solitary confinement, entitled “The Abuses of Solitary Confinement in the
Criminal Justice System,” featuring Robert King (of the Angola 3, released
in 2001 when his conviction was overturned), Congressmen John Conyers,
Bobby Scott, Cedric Richmond, and more.

And, we are even more excited to announce that it was reported on today by
the Guardian UK, which you can link to here.

Below is the official announcement from the International Coalition to
free the Angola 3 (which Angola 3 News is a project of), including
announcements of other A3 events around the country, and a fact sheet
providing background on the case of the A3:

After years of legislative advocacy that resulted in significant support
of the plight of the Angola 3 in DC, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Cedric
Richmond (D-LA), and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) have joined together to
jointly sponsor a Congressional Briefing on “The Abuses of Solitary
Confinement in the Criminal Justice System” scheduled for Wednesday, April
6th at 3:30pm in the Rayburn House Office Building Room 2226, followed by
a screening of the A3 documentary “In the Land of the Free,” which
features both Rep. Conyers and Rep. Richmond (download the event flyer

The Briefing panel will include experts on solitary from all over the
country, including A3′s own Robert King, and a second panel discussion
following the film will include Rep. Richmond, Robert King, and Carine
Williams, a member of both the criminal and civil A3 Legal teams. The
event will be moderated by Tory Pegram, Campaign Coordinator for the
International Coalition to Free the Angola 3, and is open to the public.

We encourage you to both consider attending and contacting your
Congressional Members and urging their official involvement in the event
to help end abuses of solitary confinement in the US.

In addition to speaking out about the injustices in the case for years,
Rep. John Conyers and then Chair of the Louisiana Judiciary Committee, now
Congressional Rep. Cedric Richmond, led a Congressional delegation to
visit Herman and Albert in Angola in 2008. Their visit resulted in an
unprecedented 8 month move of both men from solitary to a dorm. Although
both Herman and Albert were unceremoniously transferred back to solitary
only 8 months later without explanation or reason, both officials have
remained involved in efforts to expose the Constitutional abuses rampant
in their cases.


We’d like to invite you to be our special guest at the New Orleans debut
of “In the Land of the Free,” at Warren Easton High School Auditorium at
7pm on Thursday, April 14th as a part of Patois: The New Orleans
International Human Rights Film Festival. Robert King and Emily Maw, the
Director of the New Orleans Innocence Project will lead a Q&A following
the event.

Get your free tickets now! Just send your name and email to and we will be happy to put your name on the
will call list at the door. If you have any guests you’d like to bring,
just send their names along too and we’ll do our best to accommodate them.

On April 17-18 please join us at the RAE Building to mark the 39th year
anniversary of Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox’s unjust isolation in
solitary confinement. 39 people will spend one hour each in a 6×9 ft
replica cell. Our program of events over the weekend will also include:

- Screenings of documentaries In the Land of the Free and The Farm,
followed by panels of former Black Panthers, artists and legal experts.
- A display of arts & crafts from Angola inmates, and The House That
Herman Built by Jackie Sumell and Herman Wallace
- Undoing Racism workshop, round-table discussions, educational workshops
with local high school students and a teach-in.
- Theatrical excerpts from Angola 3, The Play written by Parnell Herbert,
and Voices performances by Louisiana exonerees.
- Press conference and vigil at dusk.
- A book-signing by Robert King.
- Musical entertainment by local performers.

For more info about the events in New Orleans, click here or visit:
The Case of the Angola Three

38 years ago, deep in rural Louisiana, three young black men were silenced
for trying to expose continued segregation, systematic corruption, and
horrific abuse in the biggest prison in the US, an 18,000 acre former
slave plantation called Angola.

Peaceful, non-violent protest in the form of hunger and work strikes
organized by inmates caught the attention of Louisiana’s elected leaders
and local media in the early 1970s. They soon called for investigations
into a host of unconstitutional and extraordinarily inhumane practices
commonplace in what was then the “bloodiest prison in the South.” Eager to
put an end to outside scrutiny, prison officials began punishing inmates
they saw as troublemakers.

At the height of this unprecedented institutional chaos, Herman Wallace,
Albert Woodfox, and Robert King were charged with murders they did not
commit and thrown into 6×9 foot solitary cells.

Robert was released in 2001, but Herman and Albert remain in solitary,
continuing to fight for their freedom.

Despite a number of reforms achieved in the mid-70s, many officials
repeatedly ignore both evidence of misconduct, and of innocence.

The State’s case is riddled with inconsistencies, obfuscations, and
missteps. A bloody print at the murder scene does not match Herman, Albert
or anyone charged with the crime and was never compared with the limited
number of 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 alleged to have been worn by Albert.

Both Herman and Albert 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. The prosecution’s star witness Hezekiah Brown told the
jury: “Nobody promised me nothing.” But new evidence shows Hezekiah, a
convicted serial rapist serving life, agreed to testify only in exchange
for a pardon, a weekly carton of cigarettes, TV, birthday cakes, and other

“Hezekiah was one you could put words in his mouth,” the Warden reminisced
chillingly in an interview about the case years later.

Even the widow of the victim after reviewing the evidence believes Herman
and Albert’s trials were unfair, has grave doubts about their guilt, and
is calling upon officials to find the real killer.

In fact, Albert’s conviction has now been overturned twice by judges
citing racial discrimination, prosecutorial misconduct, inadequate
defense, and suppression of exculpatory evidence.

Sadly however, AEDPA-gutted habeas protections that limit federal power
recently allowed the U.S. Court of Appeals to defer judgment to Louisiana,
where seemingly vengeful prosecutors insist Albert is “the most dangerous
person on the planet.”

In spite of this setback, the validity of Albert’s conviction is again
under review due to apparent discrimination in the selection of a grand
jury foreperson, an injustice that may finally set Albert free.

Although a State Judicial Commissioner similarly recommended reversing
Herman’s conviction based on new, compelling evidence exposing
prosecutorial misconduct and constitutional violations, the Louisiana
Supreme Court denied his appeal without comment.

Undeterred, Herman has now turned to the Federal Courts to prove his
innocence and win his freedom.

Meanwhile, Louisiana prison officials stubbornly refuse to release them
from solitary because “there’s been no rehabilitation” from “practicing
Black Pantherism.”

Nearly a decade ago Herman, Albert and Robert 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.” The case, expected to go to trial in 2011, will detail
unconstitutionally cruel and unusual treatment and systematic due process
violations at the hands of Louisiana officials.

We believe that only by openly examining the failures and inequities of
the criminal justice system in America can we restore integrity to that

We must not wait.

We can make a difference.

As the A3 did years before, now is the time to challenge injustice and
demand that the innocent and wrongfully incarcerated be freed.

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