For the third time since a Louisiana State Penitentiary guard was stabbed to death inside the Angola prison in 1972, Albert Woodfox, a member of the “Angola 3,” was indicted by a grand jury in the murder.
Woodfox, 67, was indicted Thursday by a West Feliciana Parish grand jury in the death of Brent Miller, the guard, only a few months after a federal appeals court upheld a previous ruling overturning Woodfox’s second murder conviction, which occurred in 1998, in Miller’s death.
Woodfox was first convicted of murder in Miller’s death in 1973, the year after the killing. That conviction later was overturned because of grand jury issues. A second murder conviction, in 1998, was the one most recently overturned by a federal district judge and upheld on appeal because of racial discrimination in the grand jury foreman selection process.
In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, George Kendall, Woodfox’s attorney, described Thursday’s indictment as “extremely disappointing.” Kendall also said Woodfox maintains his innocence in Miller’s death.
“This case has already spanned four decades and cost Louisiana millions of dollars, while Mr. Woodfox has been unjustly held in solitary confinement,” Kendall said.
The guard’s brother, Hardy Miller, of Baton Rouge, who has said in the past he thinks Woodfox should serve a life term in the stabbing, could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.
In a news release, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said the “facts of the case remain solid” in spite of the previous reversals of Woodfox’s conviction.
“Despite Woodfox’s last-ditch efforts to obtain a ‘get out of jail free’ pass on grand jury selection issues, the proof of his guilt in committing the murder is undeniable,” Caldwell said.
Thursday’s indictment marks the latest development in a highly publicized case filled with claims of racial bias and kept in the spotlight at least partially because of Woodfox’s designation as a member of the “Angola 3.”
The group, which also consisted of former Angola inmates Herman Wallace and Robert King, spent long stretches in solitary confinement at the state prison.
Woodfox, of New Orleans, remains in solitary confinement at Wade Correctional Center near Homer.
Wallace, one of the three, was convicted with Woodfox of second-degree murder in the death of Miller, then a 23-year-old prison guard. Wallace died in October 2013 only days after a judge freed him and granted him a new trial. He spent decades in solitary confinement at Angola prior to his release and death.
The other Angola 3 member, Robert King, was convicted of killing a fellow inmate in 1973 and released in 2001 after his conviction was reversed.
Woodfox and Wallace were serving 50-year sentences for armed robbery convictions when Miller was killed. They received life terms in that killing.
Like Wallace, Woodfox has always denied any involvement in Miller’s killing. Both said they were falsely implicated in the murder because of their political activism in prison as members of the Black Panther Party.
Miller, the corrections officer, was found dead about 7:45 a.m. on the morning of April 17, 1972, while most of the inmates were assembled for breakfast in the prison’s cafeteria, according to a warrant for Woodfox’s arrest filed earlier this week by investigators.
Miller was ambushed while drinking coffee and chatting with another inmate, the warrant says, and the guard suffered more than 30 stab wounds during the attack.
The warrant says Woodfox led the attack with help from Wallace and another inmate, Chester Jackson, who told investigators about details of the killing.
Jackson eventually pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter and testified against Woodfox and Wallace. Jackson died in prison in 1988.
None of the scant physical evidence in the case, which amounted to little more than a knife and a bloody fingerprint, tied Wallace or Woodfox to the murder.
Statements from other prisoners, including those from Jackson and Leonard “Specks” Turner, were the primary evidence linking Woodfox and Wallace to Miller’s death.
Follow Ben Wallace on Twitter, @_BenWallace.