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Revolutionary Daily Thought

“The coronavirus has knocked amerikkka off its “high-horse”—for the lack of a better term—as it has exposed the underlying workings of this system—a system which operates through racism, oppression, and corruption.

How Albert Woodfox of ‘The Angola Three’ survived 43 years in solitary confinement

Albert Woodfox. Picture: Peter Puna
Albert Woodfox was released from prison in 2016 after more than four decades. Photograph: Peter Puna/Courtesy Grove Atlantic

The case of The Angola Three made up of Robert King, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace, three African-American former prison inmates of the Louisiana State Penitentiary also known as Angola Prison, makes for interesting observation.

Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace were indicted in April 1972 for the killing of a prison corrections officer. They were convicted in January 1974. The pair served more than 40 years each – the “longest period of solitary confinement in American prison history.”

King was convicted of a separate prison murder in 1973 and spent 29 years in solitary confinement before his conviction was overturned on appeal; he was released in 2001 after taking a plea deal. From the late 1990s, each case was assessed, and activists began to work to have the cases appealed and convictions overturned because of doubts raised about the original trials.

It took 71-year-old Herman Wallace being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer in July 2013 and Amnesty International calling for his release to gain freedom on October 1, 2013. The state, however, showed bad faith by re-indicting him on October 3, 2013 however he died the following day, before he could be re-arrested.

That leaves us with Woodfox whose conviction was overturned by the US Court of Appeals on November 20, 2014. In April 2015, his lawyer applied for an unconditional writ for his release leading to his freedom on February 19, 2016, after the prosecution agreed to drop its push for a retrial and accept his plea of no contest to lesser charges of burglary and manslaughter.

Woodfox would have liked the chance to prove his innocence, but chose the plea deal because of advanced age and health issues.

What then was the motivation for prison officials to throw the three in solitary confinement?

The Angola Three said they were targeted by prison officials because they spoke out against inhumane treatment and racial segregation at the notorious Louisiana prison built on a former slave plantation. They had opened a chapter of the revolutionary Black Panther Party where they challenged the status quo which deprived African-Americans of rights in the prison.

Their activity of helping inmates become literate and aware of their rights was a source of worry for the prison guards who viewed them as stirring the pot. So when 23-year-old Brent Miller, a white guard at the notorious Angola Prison was found dead in a cell with multiple stab wounds, the three men were convicted of his murder and placed in solitary confinement.

The Angola Three, left to right: Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox, and Robert Hillary King via Wikimedia Commons

Woodfox and Herman Wallace, who were sent to Angola for unrelated cases of armed robbery, were convicted of the Miller murder in 1972.

The trials were deeply flawed reflecting the rife discrimination and corruption in Louisiana’s justice system. A third man, Robert King, was accused of planning the murder from another jail.

Almost immediately after the discovery of Miller’s body, covered with stab wounds, Wallace and Woodfox were placed in small airless isolation cells. Many wanted answers and fast.

Prosecutors failed to produce any physical evidence linking the men to the murder. A bloody print found at the murder scene was used as evidence, even though it did not match those of the men accused of the crime.

Since the original trial, it emerged the main eyewitness was bribed by prison officials to give statements against the men; while the state withheld evidence about the perjured testimony of another inmate. Other witnesses retracted their testimony.

Angola was known for its brutal treatment of detainees with inmates racially segregated and guarded exclusively by white officers. Murder and rape were also endemic.

Curiously, Woodfox had his conviction overturned three times but the state appealed. He was confined to a 2×3 meter cell, 23 hours a day, only allowed out to exercise alone in a small outdoor cage or to walk along the cell unit corridor and shower.

The situation, according to Woodfox’s lawyer, made him suffer from claustrophobia, hypertension, heart disease, chronic renal insufficiency, diabetes, anxiety and insomnia.

His attorney George Kendall noted “Albert survived the extreme and cruel punishment of 40 plus years in solitary confinement only because of his extraordinary strength and character.”

The Black Panther activist, who spent a record 43 years in solitary confinement was freed from a U.S. prison 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 upon his freedom.

“On my release, on 19 February 2016, my brother Michael took me home and I lived with him and his wife and son in their house for almost a year. I got medical care that I needed. In my mind, heart, soul, and spirit I always felt free, so my attitudes and thoughts didn’t change much after I was released. But to be in my physical body in the physical world again was like being newly born. I had to learn to use my hands in new ways – for seat belts, for cellphones, to close doors behind me, to push buttons in an elevator, to drive. I had to relearn how to walk down stairs, how to walk without leg irons, how to sit without being shackled,” Woodfox summed up.


Death Row inmate Kevin Cooper fights for his innocence


Since 1983, African American Kevin Cooper has been incarcerated on Death Row at California’s San Quentin State Prison. Wrongfully convicted during a nationally-covered racist frame-up trial in San Bernardino County, Cooper came within hours of being executed in 2004. But thanks to a broad movement demanding justice and freedom and ever-mounting evidence of innocence, a ruling by the 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals stayed his execution, literally at the midnight hour. Cooper has for decades become a leading social justice fighter and an opponent of the death penalty.

Stretching over decades, Cooper’s case has been repeatedly exposed as rife with overt corruption, gross incompetence and racial bias. As followers of American history will note, African Americans are often subjected to  the full weight of this nation’s racist and classist criminal injustice system. The details of Kevin Cooper’s case fully illustrate this ugly tradition; despite all evidence to the contrary, the “blame it on the Black guy” thesis has been fully operative.

Now, in January 2020, Cooper’s attorney, Norman C. Hile of the prestigious Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe global law firm, sent a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom requesting that the Governor’s office order a “complete innocence investigation.” Previously, Governor Newsom ordered a stay of all further executions in California and in so doing, granted a reprieve to Cooper.

Attorney Hile’s letter summarizes the key facts proving that Kevin Cooper is innocent of the brutal 1983 Ryen-Hughes murders in Chino Hills, California.  [For a detailed expose´ of the Cooper case see: Scapegoat: The Chino Hills Murders and the Framing of Kevin Cooper by J.  Patrick Cooper.]

The recent Governor Newsom-ordered DNA testing on a tan t-shirt and orange towel –  items found at the murder scene – according to the initial report, do not match Cooper’s DNA. None of the hairs from the victims’ hands, according to this report,  came from an African American.

Most egregiously, a vial of Kevin Cooper’s blood, taken in 1983, has been shown to be contaminated with other blood. And a second blood vial of Cooper’s blood is missing. These blood vials point to either mishandling of evidence or deliberate efforts to frame Cooper for the murders. For many years the prosecution denied DNA testing that certainly would have resulted in a new trial and proof of Cooper’s innocence.

Review of Kevin Cooper’s case

Shortly after the 1983 murders of the Ryen family and neighbor Christopher Hughes, three persons were seen driving away from the Ryen home in a car that looked like the Ryen station wagon. Josh Ryen, whose life was saved at the hospital, identified his attackers as three white or Mexican males. When Josh Ryen saw Cooper’s mug shot on the television news, he said that Cooper was not one of the killers.

The attorney’s letter states that there is now testimony from three persons to whom Eugene Leland Furrow confessed that he was responsible for the murders. Back in 1983, Diane Roper, then Furrow’s girlfriend, turned over to police coveralls covered in blood. Those bloody coveralls are now missing.

One of the key witnesses testified that Furrow confessed to participating in the murders and that Furrow was seen by this witness wearing a tan t-shirt that matched the one with Doug Ryen’s blood on it. Also, this witness asserted that Furrow arrived at the Furrow/Roper residence in a station wagon that matches the Ryen’s stolen vehicle.

There is further evidence of the corruption flooding over the Cooper case. One of the prosecution’s forensic experts, William Baird, was fired because he was found stealing heroin from various state evidence lockers. Similarly, San Bernardino County Sheriff Floyd Tidwell, also involved in the Cooper case, was convicted on felony charges of stealing hundreds of guns from evidence lockers over a period of years.

Quoting from the Hile letter: “First, according to a study published by the National Registry of Exonerations, a majority of exonerations over the past 30 years have come about not through DNA testing, as effective as that can be, but from innocence emerging through other, non-DNA factors. According to this study, there have been five times as many exonerations from non-DNA factors as from DNA testing. These non-DNA factors include, as here, (1) confessions from the actual perpetrators, (2) the discovery that “junk science” was used to obtain a wrongful conviction, and (3) that the prosecution offered perjured testimony from jailhouse snitches. Those cases also display rampant racial bias in prosecution, faulty eye-witness testimony, withholding and destroying exculpatory evidence, and ineffective assistance of defense counsel. Mr. Cooper has already shown that the prosecution presented false “snitch” testimony, relied on “junk science” and ran an investigation that was improperly driven by racism.

In addition, Mr. Cooper has shown that the prosecution presented perjured testimony and destroyed exonerating evidence, and that his defense counsel was profoundly ineffective.”

The attorney’s letter concludes that in light of this ongoing corruption, new evidence and racism, Governor Newsom should order a complete and thorough innocence investigation to expose this wrongdoing and prevent this from happening to anyone else. For further information on Kevin Cooper, see this 2018 article in Socialist Action.


source: Death Row inmate Kevin Cooper fights for his innocence

In 1825, Haiti Paid France $21 Billion To Preserve Its Independence — Time For France To Pay It Back

By Victor Omondi

Hurricane Mathew wreaked havoc on Haiti last fall. But this happens to be only one of the many misfortunes that have befallen the country. In March, Haiti transitioned from a year long period of caretaker governance by installing as its 58th president, banana exporter Jovenel Moise.

Haiti is today the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere and is as a result of a long chain of afflictions. Some of which include endemic corruption, widespread illiteracy, inadequate infrastructure, natural disasters and more.

In 1825, after overthrowing its former colony against all odds, Haiti was forced to pay “reparations” in exchange for its independence. Being a hatchling nation led by blacks, it posed serious threat to slave-owning countries around the globe – including the United States. It stood the risk of serious invasion. In the face of a hostile world, Haiti had no choice but to comply with the ultimatum given by the French. Though accepting what amounted to extortion would mean relief from political and economic isolation, the payment literally crippled the struggling nation.

Haitians would later be urged to reach into their pockets in helping their government pay off the amount. The debt took 122 years to clear and finally it was settled in 1947.

However, the regular payment, though settled, left the nation in a pervasive climate of serious instability. A fledgling nation struggling to stabilize, forced to pay for the “crime” of freeing themselves from involuntary servitude. And they are yet to recover from what can be termed today as most unacceptable extortion.

Frances demand for reparations from Haiti is completely outrageous today in any context. And despite the fact that the current French government can’t be held liable for the inhumanness of France’s 1825 ruler, King Charles X, it would be nice and commendable to see a small act of historical accountability.

Haiti dutifully paid the reparations for generations regardless of how much the nation suffered. France should now do the right thing and return the payments. What’s more, France wouldn’t feel a thing paying off the amount that stands at an estimated amount of $21 billion dollars, considering that France ranks among the world’s wealthiest nations. What would be a meager amount in France’s budget is what may just save Haiti from a deplorable state to the road to recovery.