'Cruel and Unusual'
(Corey Johnson, Robert King, Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox, et al / 2018 / Film Rise)
Overview: 'Cruel and Unusual' is the story of three men who have spent longer in solitary confinement than any other prisoners in the US because of the murder of a prison guard in 1972 at Angola, the Louisiana state penitentiary.
DVD Verdict: Simply put, Robert King, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox were convicted by bribed and blind eye witnesses and with no physical evidence.
Targeted as members of the Black Panther party the film follows their struggle against the miscarriage of justice and their cruel and unusual treatment.
Their story culminated in 2016 with the release of Albert Woodfox after 43 years in solitary confinement.
This is their story.
Known as the Angola Three, Robert King, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace who were put in solitary confinement in Louisiana State Penitentiary (also known as Angola Prison); the latter two after being convicted in April 1972 of the killing of a prison corrections officer.
As the documentary pans out, we further learn that each was kept in solitary for more than 25 years; two of the men served more than 40 years each in solitary, the "longest period of solitary confinement in American prison history."
Robert King spent 29 years in solitary confinement before his conviction of a prison murder in 1973 was overturned and he was released. Wallace was released on October 1, 2013, after more than 41 years in prison. Woodfox's unconditional release was decided on June 10, 2015, after 43 years of solitary confinement.
On November 20, 2014, Woodfox had his conviction overturned by the US Court of Appeals, and in April 2015, his lawyer applied for an unconditional writ for his release. Woodfox was released on February 19, 2016, after the prosecution agreed to drop its push for a retrial and accept his plea of no contest to lesser charges of burglary and manslaughter.
Before this new documentary from director Vadim Jean, the prisoners had been the subject of two documentary films and much international attention.
In July 2013, Amnesty International called for the release of 71-year-old Herman Wallace, who had advanced liver cancer. He was released October 1, 2013. The state re-indicted him on October 3, 2013, but he died on October 4, 2013, before he could be re-arrested.
In truth, this new documentary does come across more like a TV new report, but the sheer overwhelming enormity of this injustice shines through all that like a beacon of hope.
As someone recently put it, "It's a stark depiction of the way racism functions in concert with the criminal justice system — the ultimate tragedy of American society." Amen, Brother. Amen. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.