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Federal court delays release of last member of Angola 3

A federal appeals court on Friday blocked the release of Louisiana prison inmate Albert Woodfox, the last imprisoned member of the so-called Angola 3.

Woodfox had been scheduled to be released from prison at 1 p.m. local time Friday, according to a ruling earlier this week by U.S. District Judge James J. Brady.

But the order issued Friday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit extends his imprisonment indefinitely while the state of Louisiana makes a case for keeping Woodfox incarcerated.

Woodfox, 68, and Herman Wallace were accused in the 1972 killing of guard Brent Miller at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. A third inmate, Robert King, was linked to Miller’s death but never charged.

The group became known as the “Angola 3,” and the case has been a cause celebre for years, with activists arguing there is no evidence tying the three men to the crime and decrying the decades they each spent in solitary confinement.

The Louisiana Attorney General’s office said in a statement, “We are pleased with the court’s decision that this inmate should remain in custody as the state pursues its appeal. It has always been the state’s priority to ensure justice for the brutal slaying of Brent Miller and to hold accountable this murderer who has an extensive history of violent crimes.”

Woodfox’s lawyers said they’re confident their client will eventually be freed.

“Although Albert Woodfox remains in state custody at this time, we are confident that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will ultimately find that the district court’s ruling is sound, well-reasoned, and based on well-established law,” George Kendall and Carine Williams said in a statement.

“This is the rare, exceptional instance in which it is appropriate for the federal court to step in and prevent the state from attempting to mount an unfair trial. As the district court stated, a third trial would be unfair at best. With all key witnesses now deceased there is no longer a possibility of a reliable new trial. The fact that two previous convictions have been reversed demonstrates the weakness of the State’s case, even when those witnesses were living.”

Woodfox — who was originally imprisoned on an armed robbery conviction — has said he had tried to point out injustices at the prison, including instances of segregation, corruption and rape, and was targeted and wrongfully accused because of his activism as a Black Panther.