New Internationalist

Angola Three Appeal Denied..

Issue 351

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The Other America / WEB EXCLUSIVE

UPDATE
[24-1-03] by Anita Roddick
Read original article here..

Angola Three Appeal Denied
Anita Roddick sent us this update on the Angola Three...

Anita Roddick and Albert Woodfox As you know I've been working to raise the profile of Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace -- two members of the Angola 3 -- who have been in solitary confinement for 31 years for a murder they did not commit. The more I have learned about their case, the more convinced I have become that they are political prisoners. Last fall I watched excitedly as Albert's lawyers provided the court with a new appeal that I believed conclusively demonstrated both his and Herman's innocence.

The new evidence showed that:

• 2 of the 3 living witnesses who had testified to Albert and Herman's guilt recanted their testimony;
• 2 new witnesses have identified another man as the actual murderer;
• New DNA technology could exonerate them, if the state would allow them to test long-suppressed evidence;
• To top it all off, Woodfox submitted evidence that one of the state's witnesses who claimed to have "seen" the murder was legally BLIND!

It seems that no matter how much I learn about the justice system in the American South, I never cease to be shocked by the callousness with which it treats human beings who are fighting for their lives.

Appallingly, the Louisiana judge dispensed with this 60,000-word appeal with a three sentence denial. The first question that popped into my mind was: did he even take the time to read it? I've studied the case closely myself and I don't see how you can read this appeal and not have profound doubts.

And another thing that I found mind-boggling: Albert was forced to submit his appeal to the same judge who convicted him in the first place. It seems that no matter how much I learn about the "justice" system in the American South, I never cease to be shocked by the callousness with which it treats human beings who are fighting for their lives.

The lawyers have tried to reassure me that even if the Louisiana courts -- whose judges are all elected and have to run for office like any other politician -- refuse to treat this case with the seriousness that it deserves, Albert and Herman might have a better chance when they take their appeals to the federal court. And Herman still has an appeal pending in a different state court, and we're hopeful that he'll be treated more fairly than Albert was. But I'm not holding my breath.

I'm starting to resign myself to the reality that this may be a long fight. Another African-American activist, Geronimo Pratt, fought for 26 years before the courts finally admitted that he had been falsely imprisoned. It seems the American political system, which is so fond of preaching to the world about freedom and justice, is absolutely incapable of righting its own wrongs. But we won't stop applying the pressure, spreading the word and supporting these men.

For information on how you can help, go to
my Free the Angola Three campaign page,
or visit www.angola3.org.


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New Internationalist Magazine issue 351
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