Jun 11, 2008
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) A former Black Panther who was convicted of
killing a prison guard in 1972 should get a third trial because his
attorney previously failed to object to certain testimony and hire
experts for his defense, a federal magistrate said.
Albert Woodfox, 61, one of the prisoners known as the "Angola Three,"
spent most of the past three decades in solitary confinement after he
was convicted in the stabbing death of guard Brent Miller during a prison riot.
Magistrate Judge Christine Nolan wrote that Woodfox's attorney's
omissions denied him a fair second trial in 1998. The attorney should
have objected to testimony from witnesses who had died since the
original trial, the magistrate wrote Tuesday in a nonbinding
recommendation to U.S. District Judge James Brady, who will rule later.
The witnesses who died included an inmate who was the prosecution's
main witness and an expert who talked about blood spatters on
clothing that state officials said had been lost, Noland wrote. The
attorney also should have asked for money to hire experts to talk the
blood, DNA and fingerprints, the magistrate wrote.
Noland's decision was good news for 66-year-old Herman Wallace,
another member of the "Angola Three" convicted in the guard's
killing, Nicholas Trenticosta, an attorney representing both men,
said Wednesday. Wallace also is seeking a new trial based on similar
arguments; a state court rejected his appeal for a new trial last month.
Woodfox and Wallace were kept in solitary confinement from 1972 until
March, when they were moved to a maximum-security dormitory.
Woodfox has said he did not kill Miller and was targeted for
prosecution because he had helped establish a prison chapter of the
Black Panther Party.
State Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, said last month that he
plans to have the House Judiciary Committee hold hearings on the case.
Robert King Wilkerson, the other member of the "Angola 3," was freed
in 2001 after his 1973 conviction of murdering a fellow inmate was
overturned and he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder.