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By The Skanner News
Published: 04 March 2009

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A three-judge panel heard arguments Tuesday on whether a former member of the Black Panther Party, who is also one of the so-called Angola 3, should have a third trial for the 1972 slaying of a prison guard.

Lawyers for Albert Woodfox want the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold a decision by a federal judge in Baton Rouge, who overturned Woodfox's conviction for the murder of Brent Miller, a 23-year-old guard at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

Nick Trenticosta argued that Woodfox received inadequate representation from his court-appointed attorneys when he was retried in 1998.

``On every piece of evidence that the state put up, the council failed to test it,'' Trenticosta told the judges.

But Kyle Duncan, representing the Louisiana Attorney General, countered that Woodfox had received ``extremely effective'' representation at that trial in which he was convicted a second time in Miller's death.

``They were effective,'' Duncan said. ``They just were not successful.''

U.S. District Judge James Brady last July ruled that Woodfox's defense counsel in the retrial was ineffective, ordering the state to try him for a third time or drop the case.

``I think the court is troubled by this case,'' Trenticosta said after the hearing. ``It gave no indication that it believed the district court had committed reversible error.''

Woodfox, along with Robert King Wilkerson and Herman Wallace _ who became known as the Angola 3 _ had joined the Black Panthers after arriving at Angola in the late 1960s and began organizing a prison chapter of the group in 1971. The three set up demonstrations in the prison and organized strikes for better conditions at the prison, which was known as one of the bloodiest in the nation at the time.

Woodfox and Wallace were convicted of stabbing Miller to death. After Miller's murder, Woodfox, Wallace and Wilkerson, who was not charged in the killing but was said to be linked to it, were removed from the general population and put into solitary confinement.

Woodfox was only moved to a maximum-security unit alongside other inmates last year.

Woodfox's first conviction was overturned after he challanged the grand jury indictment.

Wilkerson, who was convicted of killing a fellow inmate in 1973, was released in 2001 after spending 29 years on lockdown. His conviction was overturned and he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of conspiracy to commit murder.

Wallace's conviction is being reviewed by the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Tuesday's arguments for Woodfox were heard by appellate Judges Carolyn Dineen King, Carl E. Stewart and Leslie H. Southwick.

A decision will probably take three to six months.

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