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The remaining incarcerated member of a group of Louisiana prisoners known as the Angola 3 was ordered to remain behind bars Friday when a federal appeals court blocked a judge's earlier order that he be released.
Supporters of the inmate, Albert Woodfox, had set up a podium outside a small Louisiana jail, expecting that he would walk out a free man and speak to the world.
"We are so sorry that did not happen today," one of his lawyers, Carine Williams, told reporters gathered outside the gate.
Instead, Woodfox, 68, who has spent more than four decades in solitary confinement for the 1972 killing of Brent Miller, a guard at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, will remain in the jail while his appeals process continues moving through the courts.
He and two other men, Robert King and Herman Wallace, became known as the Angola 3 for their long stretches in isolation in Angola and other prisons. King was released in 2001 after a court reversed his conviction for the killing of a fellow inmate in 1973. Wallace was released in 2013 when a judge granted him a new trial, then died days later.
Woodfox has been convicted twice of the guard's murder, and each time the verdict has been overturned.
Earlier this week, a U.S. district court judge ordered Woodfox released and said the state cannot try him a third time. Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell appealed that decision. An appeals court temporarily ordered him held, and on Friday a federal circuit court panel sided with the state, blocking Woodfox's release pending his appeal.
That satisfied two Miller family members, who also waited outside the jail for word.
"Thank the good lord," said Wanda Callender, Miller's sister.
Asked their reaction to claims that prejudice had tainted Woodfox's earlier verdicts, Miller's brother, Stan Miller, responded: "To us, he has had a fair trial."
Aaron Sadler, a Caldwell spokesman, released a statement saying the office was "pleased" with the circuit court's decision.
"It has always been the state’s priority to ensure justice for the brutal slaying of Brent Miller and to hold accountable this murderer who has an extensive history of violent crimes," Sadler said.