ST. FRANCISVILLE, LA (WAFB) - In a case that stretches back to 1972, lawyers have days to make their arguments on whether the man at the center of it all should be allowed to walk free or remain behind bars.
More than 40 years have passed since the murder of Angola prison guard Brent Miller. Two inmates, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace were convicted of Miller's murder. A third man, Robert King, was linked to the crime, but not charged. He was, however, convicted in 1973 in the death of a fellow inmate. After Miller's murder, all three men were thrown into solitary confinement. They were dubbed the Angola Three.
Decades later, many wonder if justice was actually served. Wallace died in 2013, shortly after a judge granted his release and granted him a new trial. King was released in 2001. Now, Woodfox, 68, is the only one to remain in prison.
Over four decades, Woodfox was twice convicted of the guard's murder. Higher courts later overturned both convictions. Then, in February 2015, a grand jury indicted Woodfox a third time. He was moved from Angola to the West Feliciana Parish Jail to await another trial.
However, Federal Judge James Brady made a rare move and intervened on Monday, ordering Woodfox's immediate release and barring the trial. In Brady's ruling, he pointed to several issues, including Woodfox's failing health and his belief that the state could not provide a fair trial.
"When you add up all these circumstances: the age of the case, the fact that all the witnesses, all the key witnesses are all gone, the fact that Mr. Woodfox is now 68 years old, he is very ill," Woodfox's attorney, George Kendall, said. "When you add all those things up, they cut in the edge of saying, 'no more.'"
Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell filed an emergency motion Tuesday to prevent Woodfox's release. Caldwell also filed an appeal to Brady's ruling. The stay request was granted through 1 p.m. Friday. Attorneys have until then to convince the courts if Woodfox should remain in prison or not while the appeal is sorted out.
"We appreciate the court's decision to temporarily block the release order so that it can consider this important matter fully," Aaron Sadler with the Office of the Louisiana Attorney General said. "We look forward to demonstrating to the court why this man should remain incarcerated and be held fully accountable for his crimes."
Over the years, the case has gotten international attention. Amnesty International has petitioned for Woodfox's release and human rights groups have condemned his conditions in solitary confinement.
On Tuesday, US Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-Louisiana, added his voice in support of Woodfox.
"Attorney General Caldwell must respect the ruling of Judge Brady and grant Mr. Woodfox his release immediately," Richmond said. "This is an obviously personal vendetta and has been a waste of tax payer dollars for decades. The state is making major cuts in education and healthcare but he has spent millions of dollars on this frivolous endeavor and the price tag is increasing by the day."
Woodfox will have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to file a response to the stay of release. There are still many things that could happen with the case before the Friday deadline.