Albert Woodfox (189479)
Credit: Courtesy

Special to the AmNews

Friday, Feb. 19, the last of the infamous “Angola Three” prisoners-of-war was freed after spending more than 45 years incarcerated, and 43 years and 10 months of that time inhumanely in solitary confinement. Albert Woodfox was released from Louisiana’s West Feliciana Parish Detention Center on his 69th physical day after entering a no contest plea to charges of manslaughter and aggravated burglary of a prison guard in 1972.

The original Black Panther activist spent more time in solitary confinement than anyone else currently held captive in U.S. prisons. He remained locked down in a 6-foot by 9-foot cell for 23 hours each day.

According to reports, in exchange for his release, the state of Louisiana agreed not to pursue a third trial for the 1972 killing of prison guard Brent Miller after a federal appeals court overturned two previous convictions, most recently in 2014. Woodfox and Herman Wallace were convicted in 1973 of killing Miller and sentenced to life. Robert King was also linked to Miller’s death but never charged.

“Our political activities marked us, and that’s why they locked us up in solitary confinement, where I remained until yesterday,” Woodfox said, explaining why he says he and Wallace were framed. He added that they were targeted because they had established a Black Panther chapter to address Angola’s horrific conditions.

Even Teenie Rogers, Miller’s widow, said she thinks the men are innocent.

Woodfox was initially serving a five-year sentence for armed robbery in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola when he and fellow POW Wallace were accused of killing Miller. The two always denied involvement.

“I am innocent,” he claimed. “The fact that I was convicted the first and second times had more to do with racism in the American judicial system than with innocence or guilt. 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.”

King was freed after his conviction in the killing of a fellow inmate was overturned in 2001.

Wallace was released in 2013 after a judge vacated his murder conviction and sentence. He succumbed to terminal liver cancer and transitioned just days later.

Upon release, Woodfox visited his mother’s grave. He wasn’t allowed to attend her funeral.

“All my strength, I inherited from my mom,” he reflected. “I was thankful she lived long enough for me to tell her I loved her and that she was my real hero.”

He said he wants to seek proper medical treatment for his health issues, reconnect with his family and become a “voice for those who have no voice, be a shield for those who can’t protect themselves.”

“Above all,” he declared, “that means using whatever strength I have left to press for an end to solitary confinement in America! We have got to stop this, and having been a victim of it for so long myself, that’s what I’m going to do!”