Renowned defense lawyer Billy Sothern has died by suicide. He was 45 years old. Sothern became known for defending low-income people across what’s known as the Death Belt, a region stretching from Alabama to East Texas where death penalty cases are prevalent. Sothern took up some of the toughest cases, including the wrongful conviction of Albert Woodfox, a former Black Panther who spent nearly 44 years in solitary confinement for a crime he always said he didn’t commit. Democracy Now! spoke to Billy Sothern in 2016 when Albert Woodfox was released from prison.
Billy Sothern: “If you look back through the course of Albert’s case, we see the suppression of evidence by the prosecution. We see ineffective assistance of counsel for people who can’t afford their own lawyers. We see an appellate process that’s incredibly resistant to providing new trials, even when it’s the manifest and right thing to do. So, while of course it’s amazing that after 43 years Albert Woodfox is now out of prison, it’s also horrifying that it took 43 years for this injustice to be corrected.”