Woodfox spent the majority of his 68 years alone. Now after two documentaries made about him and two trials, he was released and has the inauspicious title of longest serving prisoner in solitary confinement in U.S. history.
The order for solitary confinement came after he was suspected of murdering a prison guard in 1972 during a riot and although he was convicted twice, both convictions were overturned. The same Judge that granted him freedom ruled that he could not be tried a third time. Because he has been found not guilty of the murder and has served his time for the original crime, he is free to go.
Woodfox was originally convicted of armed robbery. While in prison he, along with Herman Wallace and Robert King, organized a chapter of the Black Panthers to stand up against poor prison conditions. Woodfox was accused of killing a prison guard at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, and had two trials which both found him guilty and were both subsequently reversed. Wallace was also placed in solitary and both he and Woodfox claimed that the treatment was meant to punish them for their political activities within prison.
Ever since then, Woodfox has been held alone in a 9-by-6 foot cell. Solitary confinement is an extreme treatment and has been discussed as being a form of psychological torture, sometimes leading to psychosis. It’s a wonder that Woodfox survived that type of isolation, but now he will finally leave prison.
Louisiana Attorney General James Caldwell has vowed to appeal the federal judge's order.
"With today's order, the court would see fit to set free a twice-convicted murderer," said, a spokesman for Caldwell according to the Associated Press.
As of this writing the judge has granted a stay and Woodfox will be released Friday.