Supporters demand justice for the Angola 3 outside Angola prison.
Photo: Rigo ‘23
In June, the Angola 3 received news of a favorable ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in the criminal case pending against Herman Wallace. The court ordered a lower court to hear evidence about suppressed testimony during Wallace’s trial for the murder of a prison guard at Angola.
There have also been significant developments in the civil case filed by Wallace, Albert Woodfox and Robert King Wilkerson—the Angola 3—against the Louisiana Department of Corrections and the administration of Angola prison. A magistrate judge recently acknowledged the severe violations committed by the state against them: “The present matter … involves confinements of 28 to nearly 33 years, durations so far beyond the pale that this Court has not found anything even remotely comparable in the annals of American jurisprudence.”
The Angola 3 are plaintiffs in a suit filed by the ACLU several years ago, which charges the state and prison officials with constitutional violations, including cruel and unusual punishment and due process violations. Wallace and Woodfox were held in solitary confinement for over 32 years. They are still behind bars. Wilkerson was released from prison in 2001 after nearly 29 years of solitary confinement.
The case had been inactive for the past several months due to a lack of resources. However, the law firm of Holland & Knight now has agreed to take up the civil case. A trial is anticipated at the end of the year.
Robert King Wilkerson, one of the Angola 3.
Photo: Bill Hackwell
Additionally, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision that will assist the Angola 3 in their civil case. In Wilkinson v. Austin, the Supreme Court held that prison officials may not place an inmate in solitary confinement without first providing the prisoner with a fair notice. They must also provide the inmate with an avenue to challenge the placement.
The ruling is significant because courts previously haven’t recognized a prisoner’s “liberty interest” in not being placed in severe living conditions.
The author is a member of the National Coalition to Free the Angola 3. For more information on the Angola 3 or to get involved in the campaign to free them, visit www.angola3.org.