3 April 2015

State Vendetta Continues

Free Albert Woodfox Now!

(Class-Struggle Defense Notes)

On February 12, class-war prisoner Albert Woodfox was indicted once again for the fatal stabbing of Louisiana prison guard Brent Miller in 1972. Woodfox has seen this frame-up conviction overturned three times before, only to find himself entombed in solitary confinement in the notorious Angola prison.

Last November, a federal appeals court upheld the 2013 federal district court decision granting habeas corpus relief, overturning his conviction on the grounds of racist grand jury rigging. On March 2, Woodfox briefly emerged from the prison hell that has been his home for over 40 years to attend a hearing in federal district court seeking bail pending his retrial. Determined that this patently innocent fighter for black rights rot in solitary until he dies, the prosecution told the federal court judge who granted Woodfox’s habeas petition that this was a state court matter—and that the judge should just butt out. The judge made no ruling on Woodfox’s bail application, keeping him behind bars.

After they organized a Black Panther Party chapter at Angola prison, Woodfox and fellow inmates Herman Wallace and Robert King, known as the Angola Three, were put in the crosshairs by their jailers. Woodfox and Wallace were framed up for stabbing the prison guard. King was falsely convicted of killing a fellow inmate a year later. Wallace died from liver cancer in October 2013, only three days after his release from prison. In an act both sadistic and vindictive, the State of Louisiana responded to the court order releasing Wallace by indicting him again the day before his death. King was released in 2001 and has been active in the fight to free Woodfox.

As for Woodfox’s conviction, there was not a shred of physical evidence linking him to the murder, and it was later revealed that the key prosecution “eyewitness” was bribed for his testimony at trial. So transparent was the frame-up that prison guard Miller’s widow, Leontine Rogers, believes Woodfox to be innocent and has joined in the call to release him. In 2008, Angola prison warden Burl Cain declared that even if Woodfox were not guilty, he would still keep him in solitary because “I still know that he is still trying to practice Black Pantherism.”

The persecution of Woodfox highlights the ongoing capitalist state vendetta against onetime members of the Black Panther Party—the best of a generation of black activists who sought a revolutionary road to black liberation. Thirty-eight members of the Panthers were killed by the cops and FBI, and hundreds more were framed up and imprisoned on bogus charges. Panther leaders Geronimo ji Jaga (Pratt) and Dhoruba bin Wahad among others spent decades behind bars before their release, while Mumia Abu-Jamal and Panther supporters Mondo we Langa and Ed Poindexter have between them spent over 120 years behind bars for crimes they did not commit.

Now 68 years old, Woodfox has spent decades confined in a two-by-three-meter cell 23 hours a day. According to his lawyers, he suffers from hypertension, heart disease, chronic renal insufficiency, diabetes, anxiety and insomnia—conditions no doubt caused and/or exacerbated by decades of vindictive and inhumane treatment. We reiterate our call for Woodfox’s immediate freedom and encourage our readers to take up his cause.

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1065, 3 April 2015)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.