Angola 3: Robert King on the ongoing struggle to free Albert Woodfox

by Ann Garrison

KPFA Weekend News broadcast Nov. 23, 2014

Robert King, a member of the Angola 3 who was freed in 2001, spoke to KPFA about a federal court’s decision to overturn the murder conviction of Albert Woodfox. Woodfox has spent over 42 years in solitary confinement in the Louisiana state prison system.

Transcript

KPFA Weekend News Anchor David Landau: In Louisiana, a federal appeals court has affirmed a lower court’s ruling that overturned the murder conviction of Albert Woodfox, the last member of the Angola 3 still in prison. The Angola 3 are internationally recognized as political prisoners and symbols of a racist system of mass incarceration and solitary confinement.

The Angola 3 – Herman Wallace, Robert King and Albert Woodfox – when all of them were still held in the penitentiary at Angola
The Angola 3 – Herman Wallace, Robert King and Albert Woodfox – when all of them were still held in the penitentiary at Angola

Of the other two members of the Angola 3, Robert King was released in 2001, after a judge overturned his conviction for killing another prisoner. And Herman Wallace, second of the 3, was freed last year after a judge overturned his conviction for the killing of a prison guard. The ailing Wallace left prison in an ambulance – and died two days later.

Woodfox was also convicted in the murder of the prison guard, though there was no physical evidence tying either of them to the crime, and the sole witness was another prisoner, who is now dead, and who was rewarded for his testimony. KPFA’s Ann Garrison spoke to Robert King, the other surviving Angola 3 member. Here’s that interview.

KPFA/Ann Garrison: Robert King, Albert Woodfox has now been in solitary confinement for over 42 years, despite reportedly being a model prisoner. Do you think this ruling will be the end of it, or do you expect Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to either appeal or retry Mr. Woodfox, or even both?

Robert King: It is not quite over. We don’t think so. Public opinion means a lot in this case. If Buddy Caldwell, the attorney general who has taken on this case, if he plans to pursue another trial, it means only one thing, that he will get a jury out of rural Louisiana who do not know anything about this case.

And despite the fact that this case may be known worldwide – and nationwide – there are places where the jury pool, who don’t know anything about this case, can be persuaded by this misinformation that has been going out there over the years. But we know better. All the evidence shows contrary.

Robert King has dedicated his life since he won his own release in 2001 to winning freedom for his Angola 3 comrades, speaking to everyone who will listen. Here he speaks at an event on Sept. 20, 2005. – Photo: TaSin Sabir
Robert King has dedicated his life since he won his own release in 2001 to winning freedom for his Angola 3 comrades, speaking to everyone who will listen. Here he speaks at an event on Sept. 20, 2005. – Photo: TaSin Sabir

Buddy Caldwell is just pursuing something that he’s obsessed with. He can appeal that decision, which probably won’t get him anywhere, or he can ask the court for a rehearing.

KPFA: Is it possible that Mr. Woodfox could walk out of prison on bond pending an appeal or retrial?

Robert King: That is something that I’m sure the lawyers are considering.

KPFA: Have you had a chance to talk to Mr. Woodfox since the appeals court overturned his conviction?

Robert King: I talked to Albert a few minutes ago. He hadn’t read yet Buddy Caldwell’s objections and his comments afterward, but he was really struck by the fact that it was the most conservative court in the land, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. All three of them ruled that he made a showing of discrimination in the grand jury process.

KPFA: The entire editorial board of the New York Times put their names to an essay calling Mr. Woodfox’s 42 years in solitary “barbaric beyond measure.” Do you think that the tide has turned against mass incarceration and solitary confinement during the decades you’ve been working to free and exonerate yourself and the other two members of the Angola 3?

Robert King: Yes, there has been a shift in thinking about mass incarceration and prisons, and the impact that prisons have on society and, of course, solitary confinement. And there have been some states that have just outlawed solitary confinement.

KPFA: And that was Robert King on a federal judge’s decision to overturn the conviction of Albert Woodfox.

For Pacifica, KPFA and AfrobeatRadio, I’m Ann Garrison.

Oakland writer Ann Garrison contributes to the San Francisco Bay View, Counterpunch, Global Research, Colored Opinions, Black Agenda Report and Black Star News and produces radio news and features for Pacifica’s WBAI-NYC, KPFA-Berkeley and her own YouTube Channel. She can be reached at anniegarrison@gmail.com. If you want to see Ann Garrison’s independent reporting continue, please contribute on her website, anngarrison.com.