US man tastes freedom after 43 years

Former Black Panther activist has spent a record 43 years in solitary confinement

Chicago: A former Black Panther activist who spent a record 43 years in solitary confinement was freed from a US prison after decades of legal battle to prove his innocence.

Albert Woodfox. Pic/AFP
Albert Woodfox. Pic/AFP

Albert Woodfox is the last of the ‘Angola Three’ activists to taste freedom in a case which provoked outrage among rights groups.

A federal judge had ordered Woodfox’s unconditional release in June in a strongly-worded ruling that barred any further trial on charges of murdering prison guard Brent Miller.

Woodfox twice managed to overturn his conviction for the crime, but Louisiana’s attorney general had been determined to pursue a third trial and managed to bar Woodfox’s release on appeal.

He won his freedom Friday by pleading ‘no contest’ to two lesser charges in a deal which allowed him to be released on his 69th birthday.

"Although I was looking forward to proving my innocence at a new trial, concerns about my health and my age have caused me to resolve this case now and obtain my release with this no-contest plea to lesser charges," Woodfox said in a statement.

"I hope the events of today will bring closure to many."

The plea is not an admission of guilt but instead a legal maneuver in which he "does not contest that the State would present as evidence at a new trial from witnesses who said he committed this crime," his lawyer said.

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