DAY TWO: Evidentiary Hearing for Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3
DAY TWO: Wednesday, May 30
Midday the State rested their case, and both sides requested that the judge rule that the other had not met their burden and end the proceedings then and there. To avoid another delay in the proceedings for him to consider these motions, Judge Brady instead asked Albert’s legal team to proceed with the presentation of their case for the record while everyone was already assembled and promised to decide the pending motions sometime later.
Albert’s first expert witness was Dr. Marx, a statistician with a mountain of unimpeachable credentials who very artfully and clearly explained the heart of why the State’s numbers don’t show discrimination in the selection of the grand jury foreperson but Albert’s do. The different results stem from a fundamental disagreement about not just the methodology and methods, but the very population to be examined in the first place.
The baseline group the State is using to calculate whether there was discrimination in the selection of the grand jury by race is based on broad census numbers of eligible voters, minus illiterates, but without adjusting for any of the other many factors used to qualify and seat voters for jury duty. In contrast, Albert’s expert relied upon the actual numbers of people who were called and found willing and able to serve as jurors as his base data pool for analysis. He made a credible and compelling argument that this more exact, case specific base number provided the only accurate, reliable result and demonstrated a strong, statistically significant pattern of racial discrimination in the selection of the forepersons in West Feliciana during the time of Albert’s retrial that simply cannot be explained by chance.
Testimony continues tomorrow as the third and final day of Albert’s third bid for freedom continues.
BACKGROUND ON EVIDENTIARY HEARING:
On Tuesday, May 29th, Albert Woodfox will begin a 3 day hearing that may result in his conviction being overturned for a third time. Proceedings will begin at 9am in Courtroom 1 at the US District Court in Baton Rouge and continue through Thursday, May 31st.
Albert will be present for the proceedings, and the hearing is open to the public. Please remember if attending that the Federal Court strictly enforces a more formal, conservative dress code (no short skirts or shorts of any kind, even with tights, no bare upper arms, sleeveless, or low cut shirts) and requires that observers don’t react, either visibly or audibly, to anything the might see or hear in the courtroom. Also security is tight, so bring only your ID, car keys, and a pen and paper into the courthouse.
There is limited seating in the courtroom so if you arrive and are turned away, consider your show of support a success and try coming back the next day!
Unlike the first and second time that Albert’s conviction was overturned based on judges who cited racial discrimination, prosecutorial misconduct, inadequate defense, and suppression of exculpatory evidence during his first trials for the 1972 murder of Brent Miller, this proceeding will seek to overturn based on apparent discrimination in the selection of a grand jury foreperson during his 1998 retrial.
The well known facts of the A3 case will not be debated; all that will be examined is whether or not people of color were discriminated against during the grand jury selection process. This means instead of murder mystery theatre, witnesses will mostly discuss compositions of the pool of grand jury forepersons in the Parish where Albert was indicted. Expert witnesses will discuss statistical analysis and methodology, the demographics of the community, and the sociological mechanics of how discrimination can play out in the criminal justice system. If successful, this claim could serve to overturn Albert’s conviction for a third time.
Judge James A. Brady, the same judge who overturned Albert’s conviction the second time in 2008, will preside. That ruling was ultimately reinstated on appeal by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals who cited AEDPA-gutted habeas protections that limit federal power that allowed them to defer judgment to Louisiana.
Although there are no time limits officially imposed by law, Brady is expected to rule before the end of 2012.
A3 FACT SHEET:
(Download a flyer version of this fact sheet here.)
40 years ago, deep in rural Louisiana, three young black men were silenced for trying to expose continued segregation, systematic corruption, and horrific abuse in the biggest prison in the US, an 18,000 acre former slave plantation called Angola.
Peaceful, non-violent protest in the form of hunger and work strikes organized by inmates caught the attention of Louisiana’s elected leaders and local media in the early 1970s. They soon called for investigations into a host of unconstitutional and extraordinarily inhumane practices commonplace in what was then the “bloodiest prison in the South.” Eager to put an end to outside scrutiny, prison officials began punishing inmates they saw as troublemakers.
At the height of this unprecedented institutional chaos, Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox, and Robert King were charged with murders they did not commit and thrown into 6×9 foot solitary cells.
Robert was released in 2001, but Herman and Albert remain in solitary, continuing to fight for their freedom.
Despite a number of reforms achieved in the mid-70s, many officials repeatedly ignore both evidence of misconduct, and of innocence.
The State’s case is riddled with inconsistencies, obfuscations, and missteps. A bloody print at the murder scene does not match Herman, Albert or anyone charged with the crime and was never compared with the limited number of other prisoners who had access to the dormitory on the day of the murder.
Potentially exculpatory DNA evidence has been “lost” by prison officials—including fingernail scrapings from the victim and barely visible “specks” of blood on clothing alleged to have been worn by Albert.
Both Herman and Albert had multiple alibi witnesses with nothing to gain who testified they were far away from the scene when the murder occurred.
In contrast, several State witnesses lied under oath about rewards for their testimony. The prosecution’s star witness Hezekiah Brown told the jury: “Nobody promised me nothing.” But new evidence shows Hezekiah, a convicted serial rapist serving life, agreed to testify only in exchange for a pardon, a weekly carton of cigarettes, TV, birthday cakes, and other luxuries.
“Hezekiah was one you could put words in his mouth,” the Warden reminisced chillingly in an interview about the case years later.
Even the widow of the victim after reviewing the evidence believes Herman and Albert’s trials were unfair, has grave doubts about their guilt, and is calling upon officials to find the real killer.
In fact, Albert’s conviction has now been overturned twice by judges citing racial discrimination, prosecutorial misconduct, inadequate defense, and suppression of exculpatory evidence.
Sadly however, AEDPA-gutted habeas protections that limit federal power recently allowed the U.S. Court of Appeals to defer judgment to Louisiana, where seemingly vengeful prosecutors insist Albert is “the most dangerous person on the planet.”
In spite of this setback, the validity of Albert’s conviction is again under review due to apparent discrimination in the selection of a grand jury foreperson, an injustice that may finally set Albert free.
Although a State Judicial Commissioner similarly recommended reversing Herman’s conviction based on new, compelling evidence exposing prosecutorial misconduct and constitutional violations, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied his appeal without comment.
Undeterred, Herman has now turned to the Federal Courts to prove his innocence and win his freedom.
Meanwhile, Louisiana prison officials stubbornly refuse to release them from solitary because “there’s been no rehabilitation” from “practicing Black Pantherism.”
Over a decade ago Herman, Albert and Robert filed a civil lawsuit challenging the inhumane and increasingly pervasive practice of long-term solitary confinement. Magistrate Judge Dalby describes their almost four decades of solitary as “durations so far beyond the pale” she could not find “anything even remotely comparable in the annals of American jurisprudence.” The case, expected to go to trial by 2013, will detail unconstitutionally cruel and unusual treatment and systematic due process violations at the hands of Louisiana officials.
We believe that only by openly examining the failures and inequities of the criminal justice system in America can we restore integrity to that system.
We must not wait.
We can make a difference.
As the A3 did years before, now is the time to challenge injustice and demand that the innocent and wrongfully incarcerated be freed.