Last of ‘Angola Three’ inmates to be released

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NEW ORLEANS — The last inmate of a group known as the “Angola Three” has pleaded no contest to manslaughter and a lesser offense in the 1972 death of a prison guard and is expected to be released Friday after more than four decades in prison.

Albert Woodfox and two other men became known as the “Angola Three” for their decades-long stays in isolation at the Louisiana Penitentiary at Angola and other prisons. Officials said they were kept in solitary because their Black Panther Party activism would otherwise rile up inmates at the maximum-security prison farm in Angola.

Woodfox consistently maintained his innocence in the killing of guard Brent Miller. He was being held at the West Feliciana Parish Detention Center, awaiting a third trial in Miller’s death after earlier convictions were thrown out by federal courts for reasons including racial bias in selecting a grand jury foreman.

Woodfox was serving time for armed robbery and assault when he was convicted in Miller’s killing. Inmates identified him as the one who grabbed the guard from behind while others stabbed Miller with a lawnmower blade and a hand-sharpened prison knife.

The star witness, a serial rapist who left death row and was pardoned by the Louisiana governor after his testimony, died before the second trial.

Woodfox was placed in solitary immediately after Miller’s body was found in an empty prison dormitory, and then was ordered kept on “extended lockdown” every 90 days for decades.

The other Angola Three inmates were Robert King, who was released in 2001 after his conviction in the death of a fellow inmate was overturned, and Herman Wallace, who died a free man in October 2013, just days after a judge granted him a new trial in Miller’s death.

Woodfox appeared close to freedom in recent years.

U.S. District Judge James Brady ordered his release in June and barred a third trial, saying the state could not try Woodfox fairly more than 40 years after Miller’s death.

But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Brady, setting up a third trial.

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