BATON ROUGE, La. — Albert Woodfox says his family was a factor in his decision to plead no-contest in the 1972 slaying of a prison guard — a killing he still insists he didn’t commit.
Woodfox — long a member of the group of inmates known as the Angola Three — talked about his decision Monday at Southern University, according to The Advocate (http://bit.ly/2cPTRRl).
His “no-contest” plea to a manslaughter charge this year led to his release — after more than four decades —with credit for time served. The plea stands as a conviction, but Woodfox doesn’t call it a compromise. He said it was a “plea for freedom.”
“The internal struggle for me was, I had spent 43 years of my life never backing down, never compromising what I believe in,” he told the standing-room-only crowd.
Supporters dubbed Woodfox and two others the “Angola Three,” saying they endured long stretches in isolation at the state prison in Angola due to their activism.
Woodfox, 69, who helped found the Black Panther Party chapter at the Angola prison, said he felt tortured by the feeling that if he agreed to a plea deal, he’d diminish his credibility in telling others to not give up in their struggles.
“Somehow my daughter and my grandkids and great grandkids coming to visit gave me the strength to say, ‘Yeah, you’re not compromising on anything. It’s not a plea of guilt. This is a plea for freedom,'” Woodfox said.
Among those attending Monday’s speech were Woodfox’s 52-year-old daughter, Brenda Pool, and U.S. District Judge James Brady,
In June 2015, Brady issued an order saying that Woodfox should be immediately released and barred from being retried in guard Brent Miller’s stabbing death. Woodfox, who saw his first two convictions in the slaying thrown out because of flaws with the grand juries in the proceedings, was facing a third trial in the fatal stabbing. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Brady’s opinion in November, clearing the way for the retrial, but Woodfox instead made the no-contest plea and was released.
“I did what a judge is supposed to do,” Brady said after Woodfox’s talk.
The other Angola Three inmates were Herman Wallace, who died a free man in October 2013, just days after a judge granted him a new trial in Miller’s death and Robert King, who was released in 2001 after his conviction in the death of a fellow inmate was overturned.
Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com