BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A federal appeals court extended an order that blocks the release of Albert Woodfox.
Woodfox is the last member of the "Angola Three" who is still in prison.
On Monday, a federal judge ordered Woodfox's release and barred state prosecutors from trying him a third time. He had already been convicted twice in the 1972 death of a prison guard. Higher courts later overturned both convictions.
The state Attorney General's office appealed on Tuesday. The emergency motion was granted by a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Woodfox's release was temporarily blocked until Friday.
Woodfox's lawyers filed papers Wednesday opposing the state Attorney General's effort to keep the aging prisoner locked up. But the same three-judge panel extended the order until the state's appeal plays out.
Woodfox is currently still at the West Feliciana Parish prison where he was taken to await trial.
Woodfox's attorneys released a statement after the court order was extended on Friday:
"Although Albert Woodfox remains in state custody at this time, we are confident that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will ultimately find that the district court's ruling is sound, well-reasoned, and based on well-established law. This is the rare, exceptional instance in which it is appropriate for the federal court to step in and prevent the state from attempting to mount an unfair trial. As the district court stated, a third trial would be unfair at best. With all key witnesses now deceased there is no longer a possibility of a reliable new trial. The fact that two previous convictions have been reversed demonstrates the weakness of the State's case, even when those witnesses were living.
"Furthermore, there is no penological justification for the harsh conditions under which Mr. Woodfox has been held for over four decades. We will continue to challenge the right of the State to hold Mr. Woodfox, an elderly man in failing health, in the harshest possible solitary confinement conditions and work to get the medical care he urgently needs at a proper medical facility."
The state's briefing on the case is set for July 10. The Woodfox's brief will follow on July 31, and the state will then get to respond on August 7.