November 26, 2008 -- His defense team says he is a wrongfully convicted man who wouldn't hurt a fly. The State of Louisiana calls him "one of the most dangerous people in the United States." Now, after 37 years of lock up, Albert Woodfox, 61, will walk out of Louisiana State Penitentiary, after a judge ruled Tues. that Woodfox be released on bail after he previously overturned his conviction for murdering a prison guard.
"Mr. Woodfox today is not the Mr. Woodfox of 1973," said U.S. District Judge James Brady in his decision. "Today he is a frail, sickly middle aged man who has had an exemplary record for over the last twenty years."
Woodfox's legal team praised the decision and said Woodfox is "completely overjoyed and overwhelmed." "His strength is immeasurable," said attorney Nick Trenticosta. "The fact that he's remained as hopeful and strong as he has is remarkable to me."
Woodfox is expected to be released as soon as next week, once Brady approves his living arrangements.
But that won't happen if the state has its way. Louisiana Attorney General James "Buddy" Caldwell told ABC News that he has filed an emergency appeal to try and hold Woodfox in detention while the state appeals to an upper appellate court for a reversal of Brady's decisions in the case.
"We're going to fight it all the way," said Caldwell.
Brady granted Woodfox, who has been appealing a second degree murder conviction in the death of a prison guard, habeas corpus relief in September, effectively overturning the conviction that has sparked a lengthy legal back and forth between Louisiana prosecutors and defense attorneys. Brady granted the state's request to stay a new trial while the appeals process is underway. If the state does not win its appeal, it will need to retry Woodfox within 120 days.
In 1972, Woodfox was serving a 50-year sentence for armed robbery when prison guard Brent Miller was murdered within prison walls. Woodfox was convicted of the murder based on the testimony of fellow inmate Hezekiah Brown.
Brown testified that he saw Woodfox and three other inmates murder the guard, but defense attorneys later found out through state records that the prison's warden began campaigning for a pardon for Brown and authorized the use of prison dollars to pay for an advertisement urging his clemency, which they say, amounts to testimony for sale. At the time, Brown was serving a life term without parole after being taken off death row, according to court documents.
Woodfox alleges that he was framed by prison officials because he was a Black Panther and was advocating for prison reform.
The case attracted attention after Woodfox became known as one of the "Angola Three" for being segregated for over three decades at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Woodfox and Herman Wallace, who was convicted of murdering the same prison guard, were let out of confinement in March. Wallace is currently appealing his murder conviction, while the third Angola Three member, Robert King, was released in 2001.