Louisiana in­sists on 3rd trial for al­leged pri­son killer


Louisiana’s at­tor­ney gen­eral is in­sist­ing on a third trial for the last of the “An­gola Three,” call­ing the pri­son ac­tivist who spent decades in soli­tary af­ter the killing of a guard in 1972 “the most danger­ous per­son on the planet.”

A fed­eral judge ruled this week that Al­bert Wood­fox must be freed im­me­di­ately, say­ing the state has never proved — and never will — that he was re­spon­si­ble for the stabbing death of Brent Miller 43 years ago.

So what ex­actly does the state have on this armed rob­ber who or­ga­nized a Black Pan­ther Party chap­ter to chal­lenge the bru­tal con­di­tions in­side the sprawl­ing Louisiana State Pen­i­ten­tiary?

Wood­fox’s l ong- sim­mer­ing story has been the sub­ject of doc­u­men­taries, Pe­abody Award win­ning jour­nal­ism, United Na­tions hu­man rights re­views and even a the­atri­cal play. It’s a stag­ger­ing tale of in­con­sis­ten­cies, wit­ness re­cants, rigged jury pools, outof-con­trol pri­son vi­o­lence, racial prej­u­dice and po­lit­i­cal in­trigue.

And none of it has brought jus­tice to Miller’s widow, Tee­nie Rogers, who did her own in­ves­ti­gat­ing and says there’s no evi- dence that Wood­fox is guilty.

“I think it’s time the state stop act­ing like there is any ev­i­dence that Al­bert Wood­fox killed Brent,” Rogers said Thurs­day.

Her state­ment was is­sued by a team of ad­vo­cates for Wood­fox, who came within hours of free­dom this week be­fore the U.S. 5th Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals stayed his re­lease while de­cid­ing whether to ac­cept the state’s ap­peal.

“I hope the Ap­peals Court cares about the ev­i­dence and cares about jus­tice,” Rogers said. “The judge has al­ready said this is over. Let it be over. For all of us.”

Her sweet­heart’s death the morn­ing of April 17, 1972, a Mon­day, re­mains one of the most no­to­ri­ous events in the long bloody his­tory of the pri­son farm at An­gola, Louisiana, called “Amer­ica’s worst” as far back as 1952 by Col­lier’s mag­a­zine.

Pri­son of­fi­cials said Wood­fox was the in­sti­ga­tor, grab­bing Miller from be­hind while oth­ers stabbed him. But key as­pects of the crime have re­mained mys­te­ri­ous ever since his body was found in an empty pri­son bunkhouse.

Ten­sions had been un­usu­ally high at the pri­son that year. Wood­fox and oth­ers had been en­cour­ag­ing in­mates to refuse to work. The day be­fore, in­mates tossed a gaso­line can at a small wooden guard­house, light­ing it on fire. That guard nar­rowly es­caped with burned hair. Pri­son au­thor­i­ties blamed Wood­fox for that attack as well.

Miller left for work that day feel­ing ap­pre­hen­sive, his widow re­called. He en­tered the Pine 1 dor­mi­tory — a scene of un­ruli­ness days be­fore — to get a cup of cof­fee from the “trusty,” a se­rial sex of­fender named Hezekiah Brown — and was at­tacked with a lawn­mower blade and a hand­made pri­son knife called a shiv.

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