Albert Woodfox, the last incarcerated member of the Angola Three, was released from prison on his 69th birthday, CNN reports.
Woodfox was going to a third trial for the 1972 slaying of prison guard Brent Miller at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola but pleaded no contest Friday to lesser charges, according to a statement.
“Although I was looking forward to proving my innocence at a new trial, concerns about my health and my age have caused me to resolve this case,” he said.
Woodfox, whom many consider a political prisoner, had spent more than 43 years under solitary confinement for Miller’s death, a practice that many criminal-justice advocates, human rights groups and the United Nations equate to torture.
The Guardian reports that Woodfox was the longest-standing solitary confinement prisoner in the U.S. and held in isolation in a 6-by-9-foot cell almost continuously for 43 years. In the single remaining hour, he was allowed out of the cell to go to the “exercise yard”—a small area of fenced concrete—but was shackled and kept alone there, too.
— Critical Resistance (@C_Resistance) February 19, 2016
A federal appeals court overturned Woodfox’s conviction in 2014—the second time it had been overturned—but he had remained behind bars during the appeals process.
Last November, a judge with the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals described the conditions of Woodfox’s confinement at Angola, a notorious prison that holds approximately 5,000 male inmates, 68 percent of whom are serving life sentences.
“For the vast majority of his life, Woodfox has spent nearly every waking hour in a cramped cell in crushing solitude without a valid conviction,” said Judge James Dennis, according to The Guardian.
The Angola Three also included Herman Wallace, who was convicted in 1973 of killing Miller, and Robert King, who was linked to Miller’s death but never charged. King was freed after his conviction in the killing of a fellow inmate was overturned in 2001. Wallace was also released in 2013 after a judge vacated his murder conviction and sentence, but he died only days after he was released from prison.