After 44 Years, Wilbert Rideau Freed From Jail

Bump and Update: It's great to see the media covering Wilbert Rideau's release from jail. Here's our coverage from Friday to Sunday:

Bump and Update: The Louisiana jury returned a manslaughter verdict Saturday as requested by the defense in prison journalist Wilbert Rideau's fourth trial. He will be freed, having served the maximum sentence for that offense. In fact, George Kendall, Wilburt's excellent defense attorney was already going to get the car to take them away. What a difference a fair trial makes.

Original Post, 1/15/05, 7:07 a.m.

Wilbert Rideau has served 44 years of a life sentence in a Lousiana Prison. During that time, he has become an acclaimed prison journalist, writing for the state penitentiary’s prison magazine, “The Angolite.”

Rideau arrived at the state prison at Angola at age 19 with an eighth-grade education and a death sentence. He taught himself to read and began writing while waiting for the electric chair. His sentence was changed to life in prison without parole in 1972, after the U.S. Supreme Court threw out Louisiana's death penalty. Refused a job by whites at The Angolite prison magazine, Rideau founded The Lifer and began writing a weekly column for a group of black newspapers. In 1976, he was named editor of The Angolite and transformed it from a mimeographed newsletter into a slick magazine that has won a string of awards.

Under Rideau and Billy Wayne Sinclair, who became co-editor in 1978, the magazine won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and the American Bar Association's Silver Gavel Award. The two also won the George Polk Award in 1979 for articles about homosexual rape and a killing in prison. The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and dozens of others have written glowing profiles of Rideau, as did Life magazine, which dubbed him "The Most Rehabilitated Prisoner in America."

His fourth retrial is currently taking place. It may wrap up today. His defense team is hoping for a conviction for manslaughter so that he can be released with time served. They are hoping the jury will agree the killing was the "chaotic act of a confused teenager" rather than a cold-blooded murderer. And they are making progress, according to all of the news accounts we've read.

This was a huge case in 1961 and resulted in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Rideau v. Louisiana, 373 US 723 (1963)on prejudicial pre-trial publicity in which Justice Stewart, writing for the Court, called what happened to Wilbert in Calcasieu Parish, "kangaroo court proceedings." Local law enforcement made a recording of Rideau, "in jail, flanked by the sheriff and two state troopers, admitting in detail the commission of the robbery, kidnapping, and murder, in response to leading questions by the sheriff" which they then had played on television in the community.

The case now before us does not involve physical brutality. The kangaroo court proceedings in this case involved a more subtle but no less real deprivation of due process of law. Under our Constitution's guarantee of due process, a person accused of committing a crime is vouchsafed basic minimal rights. Among these are the right to counsel, 3 the right to plead not guilty, and the [373 U.S. 723, 727] right to be tried in a courtroom presided over by a judge. Yet in this case the people of Calcasieu Parish saw and heard, not once but three times, a "trial" of Rideau in a jail, presided over by a sheriff, where there was no lawyer to advise Rideau of his right to stand mute. The record shows that such a thing as this never took place before in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana.

For some statistics on the unequal justice accorded black murder defendants in Calasieu Parish, go here.

At trial Friday, Rideau's mother took the stand and described the atmosphere in Louisiana at the time of the crime:

Wilbert Rideau's defense portrays Lake Charles in 1961 as a hotbed of racism... a segregated community where blacks and whites didn't mix and one in which a black man's killing of a white woman inflamed the white community.

Wilbert Rideau's mother, Gladys Simien, took the stand to help her son. She says deputies brought her to the jail where there was a crowd of angry white men who were, in her words, "...cursing, saying they were going to hang that n*gger and kill him and shoot him."

The jury heard similar testimony from another witness.

As well, the jury hears from Jackie Lewis who was 14 years old and says after learning of Rideau's arrest, her father and others felt it necessary to protect their families' lives and property. Lewis says "My father got a gun I never knew he even owned and our neighborhood was overrun by people filled with hatred and violence and wanting to wreak havoc on the African-American community. There were crosses burned on Brick Street. There were crosses burned on Iowa Street in about a three block area. If one black committed a crime then we all committed a crime and we all should pay."

In addition, the forensic evidence came under attack when forensic expert Werner Spitz testified:

Gruesome details of how Wilbert Rideau fatally stabbed Ferguson and kidnapped her and two other bank employees have long been part of the crime’s story. Defense lawyer believe the details have helped harden opinion against him and keep him imprisoned.

...Dr. Werner Spitz said the cut on Julia Ferguson’s neck was “superficial” and appeared to be from a medical tracheotomy, based on photographs taken the night she died.

Wilbert Rideau has served more time in prison than any offender in history of Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana:

In 1988, the Shreveport Journal's editorial board wrote: "Numerous corrections officials - from every warden at Angola who has worked with Rideau to former Secretary of Corrections C. Paul Phelps - have said that if there is any prisoner in America who has been rehabilitated it is Wilbert Rideau, and that he is no threat to society. ... The average length of incarceration for a convicted murderer in the United States is roughly seven years. Rideau has served [many] times that long. This is a mockery of the corrections system because Rideau has done everything the judicial system asked of him and much more. ... His continued incarceration despite universal agreement of his rehabilitation is a black mark on the state's judicial system."

Yet the District Attorney has insisted on trying him again.

Wilbert's impressive resume is here. You can read about his case here. Some of his writings are available here. The 2000 decision of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ordering Wilbert freed or retried is here.

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    Both Norman Mailer and William Buckley found and sponsored a prison sage and writer. Each was a convicted murderer, each was released in part because of the efforts of their "sponsors". Each then murdered somebody. The difference between Buckley and Mailer on one hand and you on the other is that if Rideau kills somebody, you won't care.

    "The average length of incarceration for a convicted murderer in the United States is roughly seven years." This would seem the 'mockery' to me.

    even the state of georgia lets people out of prison after serving 25 years of a life sentence. my god, when is enough time enough? Louisiana is a penal state like Georgia I think, but Louisiana seems much worse. what is wrong with this district attorney to try a case over and over again? the man should have been let out at least after serving 20 years. why is our society so punitive?

    Re: After 44 Years, Wilbert Rideau Freed From Jail (none / 0) (#4)
    by cp on Sat Jan 15, 2005 at 10:23:18 AM EST
    ok, i read all the stuff you linked to. i am a bit confused, since none of those links indicate what, if any, evidence was presented to support the various guilty verdicts. is this all the result of the lack of transcripts? how did the prosecutors proceed? did they just get up and tell the jury to vote "guilty", or did they provide actual witness testimony and forensic evidence? can you provide a link to the actual evidence presented against him?

    Re: After 44 Years, Wilbert Rideau Freed From Jail (none / 0) (#5)
    by Richard Aubrey on Sat Jan 15, 2005 at 04:16:32 PM EST
    Janice Carr. Would you have any objection to changing the life sentence to read, "maximum of twenty-five years", and retiring the concept of the life sentence?

    Re: After 44 Years, Wilbert Rideau Freed From Jail (none / 0) (#6)
    by bad Jim on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 02:45:14 AM EST
    He will be freed Free at last Free at last Thank God almighty Free at last.

    Kinda like running for Gov. in Washington state. Or asking for a cookie from mom. Just go back again and again until you get the answer you like. -C

    Re: After 44 Years, Wilbert Rideau Freed From Jail (none / 0) (#9)
    by Richard Aubrey on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 06:39:49 AM EST
    Well, Freder, I and a potential victim hope your distinction is correct.

    Re: After 44 Years, Wilbert Rideau Freed From Jail (none / 0) (#10)
    by soccerdad on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 06:45:36 AM EST
    RA you are truly a despicable pile of carbon atoms [your humanness would have to be verified by a search party for me to call you a hyman being]

    RA is a classic redstater. No interest in rehabilitation or the possibility of redemption. No interest in equal justice, his racism would be explained as our political correctness. Btw, if we are going to jail everyone who may kill another person as a preventive measure, we need more jails and RA needs to be in one. I hope Rideau can successfully become a free man. That has got to be a difficult transition after 40 plus years.

    Each was a convicted murderer, each was released in part because of the efforts of their "sponsors". Rideau is not a murderer. The jury convicted him of manslaughter. Nor will he be released because of the efforts of sponsors. Instead, he will be released because he has already served far more time awaiting a fair trial than the maximum penalty for manslaughter. It seems Rideau "served" 44 years in custody before a lawful verdict of any sort was rendered against him. Did this guy ever ask for release on a million $ bond back, say, after the third conviction was reversed?

    Re: After 44 Years, Wilbert Rideau Freed From Jail (none / 0) (#13)
    by Andreas on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 08:57:17 AM EST
    "Richard Aubreyr" wrote (directed to Talkleft):
    The difference between Buckley and Mailer on one hand and you on the other is that if Rideau kills somebody, you won't care.
    I would like to quote from the "E-Mail and Comment Policy":
    Comments that are abusive, offensive, contain profane material or violate the terms of service for this blog's host provider will be removed and the author(s) banned from future comments.

    The problem isn't that he served more time, the problem is the others haven't served enough time. Geez, how much do we value human life when we can say seven, ten, fifteen years is enough for taking a father, son, sibling, life-partner away from someone? As a mid-40's Democrat I've always struggled with our party's concept of crime and punishment. Soccerdad, Your venom is priceless! Childish, but priceless.

    There are fundamental questions about the function of incarceration that under discussion here. Is the purpose of incarceration to rehabilitate a felon? or to punish a felon? or to make society safe by jailing felons on the assumption, statistically borne out, I am pretty certain, that convicted felons are more likely to commit a subsequent felony? I am a born-again so have some prevailing interest and belief in redemption, so for me, prisons should be about rehabilitation primarily, public safety second, and everything else way down the list. With that pov, this guy appears to be rehabilitated and no reason to believe he poses more of a danger to any of us on the outside than your average citizen or congressman. Welcome back to society, Mr. Rideau.

    Boca - I do too. But I also know that if my family had ever been seriously harmed then I would be all 'bout punishment. OTOH if one of my kids were to do something mean or stupid and get caught in the cogs I'm sure I'd be begging for mercy for them. Or hymanity. :-) -C

    Well said, Cliff. That is the problem that most of us experience. Our opinions and desires are driven by our specific experience rather than our values. The important question for society is to decide the purpose for incarceration outside of the tainted realm of our specific experience. Bringing our voice to the discussion from our specific experience is part of the democratic experiment, but as someone said, an eye for an eye and the whole world is blind.

    Re: After 44 Years, Wilbert Rideau Freed From Jail (none / 0) (#18)
    by wishful on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 10:34:47 AM EST
    Boca, Apparently we have a pretty consistent value of human life expressed in our actions to date. White life is generally quite valuable. Figure out the rest for yourself by looking at prison populations; rates of conviction, length of imprisonment even for property crimes when victims are white and defendants are not, as opposed to any other permutation; statistics on heredity of death row and executed people, especially wrt race of victim; our methods of liberation from Saddam's torture and death squads of the poor downtrodden Iraqis, etc. If you are honest, you will notice distinct patterns.

    Re: After 44 Years, Wilbert Rideau Freed From Jail (none / 0) (#19)
    by cp on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 02:37:06 PM EST
    sorry rw, i must vigorously disagree. he most certainly is a murder because, well, he murdered someone. regardless of the idiotic semantics engaged in by his attorney, he murdered a woman in cold blood, during the commission of a felony. those are facts that mr. rideau himself admits to. whether he is rehabed or not, i have no clue. we'll see. of course, his age tends to militate against recidivism: there aren't too many murderers in their 60's. except maybe for unhappy wives, who finally whack their long-term spouses over the head with a frying pan, but that's a special category all it's own! for whatever reason he was kept in jail, the fact is he is most assuredly guilty of murder.

    Andreas. In your search for abuse, see Soc and Conscious. Unless your concern only goes one way. Which is it? Now, I don't mind this crap, since, as my sainted mother used to say, "Consider the source, dear."

    Oh, and as regards the usual "racist" comment ("racist" is what you get called when you beat a liberal on the facts), it appears that about 95% of those murdering blacks are themselves black. So it would follow that looking warily at a black murderer would be something those opposing the murder of blacks would think a good idea.

    Re: After 44 Years, Wilbert Rideau Freed From Jail (none / 0) (#22)
    by Mike on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 06:10:40 PM EST
    Richard, Is there anyone more inhumane or stupid than you? Why don't you get a life? 44 years isn't enough? What is your problem? The man was 18 and now he is 62. Go back to your cave.

    I guess, Mike, that you are thinking of indeterminate sentencing. Whoever gets some good ink gets a break. If the law says a particular thing, that's what it's supposed to mean, unless that's inconvenient, of course. I merely point out that most people don't murder. The propensity to murder might be said to be demonstrated by murdering. I have seen guys do really well in extremely structured situations and tank when given discretion. Now, suppose, just for supposin's sake, that this guy kills somebody. You would say to that person's family just exactly what?

    ca - I would argue that our experiences shape our values. My grandfather used to say that experience is a fine school but only a d*mn fool leans in no other. My values say that criminals impede the forward progress of society towards a greater perfection and should be purged. Should I have a bad run-in I'm sure purged could easily be changed to shot. -C

    Cliff, one guy to think about in the values vs. experience question: Victor Frankl. I think his values shaped his experience and he is a person worthy of emulation. It's a generally reactive and hence reactionary position to let experience shape your values. All the true saints and prophets would cease to exist without their adherence to their values as their foremost connection to and through the world.

    Hey, some of the best people I know are murderers. What is the recidivism rate for murderers? Since most murders are committed in moments of passion, it's my understanding that the likelihood of a murderer committing another murder is low. Not zero, but low. Anyone have the statistics? Yes, I know that a low probability doesn't guarantee that a released murderer won't kill again. But as I see it, there's no guarantee that your neighbor won't kill you tomorrow, either. The world is damn short of guarantees.

    Ytterby. You're right about the moment of passion murder, although those are frequently considered other than first-degree murder. The murder in question was committed in the process of committing a felony, a passionless process, at least in the planning stage. The guy, at age nineteen when most of us are presumed to have at least some judgment, planned to do wrong to another for no reason but his own gain. This is different than a drunken brawl over cards that goes wrong. As you know.

    I believe that planning and executing a robbery is possible with absolutely no intent to commit murder, or to even contemplate the possibility of committing murder. Therefore, it's entirely possible that a murder occurring during the commission of a felony did indeed happen in a moment of passion. Increase the sentence for the commission of a murder during a felony if you must, but don't try to convince me that every murder that occurs during a robbery is premeditated and therefore the perpetrator is beyond redemption. Even if your view of the purpose of prison is retribution, your thirst for vengence surely must be satisfied after 44 years. If it's to protect society, look at the statistics. The chances od this man committing another murder in his 60's is pretty damn small. Again, there aren't any guarantees about anything, but personally I'd have no qualms about living next door to Mr. Rideau.

    The murder in question was committed in the process of committing a felony, a passionless process, at least in the planning stage. Louisiana in 1961 was an entirely different world. It was a world of violence and oppression for black people. The amazing thing about this case is that it ever made it to the first trial. Without knowing the exact details of the crime, there is no doubt that Mr. Rideau assumed that by robbing a bank and kidnapping three white people he was a dead man. He probably assumed that if he was caught he would be promptly tortured and lynched, no arrest and no trial. He was a scared young man who panicked. I'm sure he was amazed that he even lived long enough to see a trial--he received a death sentence in his first trial. As I mentioned in an earlier thread, apparently his noteriety actually worked against him. He served longer for murder than anyone else in the history of Louisiana--and something like 20 years longer than any white man had served for a first murder. The warden of Angola admitted that Mr. Rideau probably would have been released years ago if not for his noteriety.

    Freder. If Rideau had that view of society, he must have had it before he decided to rob a bank. That he was wrong is interesting. You seem to think he was right. Unfortunately for your view, he lived through it. So your view was wrong. So was his. Nevertheless, felony murder is different in quality from the brawl earlier referred to which is why it's different in law. Now, if you wish to equate the two, start a campaign to make murder during a robbery equal to punching a guy in a bar and he hits his head on a table going down. Or admit you're doing a one-off because you're on a bandwagon which has just come to your attention.

    Y writes - "Therefore, it's entirely possible that a murder occurring during the commission of a felony did indeed happen in a moment of passion." Yes, but the passion would not have happened without the underlaying crime of robbery. BTW - I agree that it was time for his release. I have questions about whether or not he should have been executed 40 years ago. mike writes - "Why don't you get a life? 44 years isn't enough? What is your problem? The man was 18 and now he is 62. Go back to your cave." Acually the victim has been in a man made cave, that was filled in, for 44 plus years. Guess he can't get a life, either.

    That he was wrong is interesting. You seem to think he was right. Unfortunately for your view, he lived through it. So your view was wrong. If you want to deny the ugly truth about what life was like in the South until they were forced to end segregation with the Voting and Civil Rights Acts, that is fine. A lot of people deny the Holocaust, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. The Washington Post has an article about the case today, read it and it backs up my assumptions. On the larger question of how black people were treated under Jim Crow, there were almost 5000 documented lynchings between 1880 and 1965. Most of these were of African Americans, but Jews and Catholics were also victims. Blacks routinely received long prison sentences on trumped up charges for being in the wrong neighborhood or even looking at a white woman the wrong way. The most charitable way to describe the South during this period is as thoroughly corrupt supported by terrorist organizations. It has taken 40 years to endict the murderers of civil rights workers in Mississippi.

    Good for him.

    off-topic comments have been deleted.

    On this premeditation issue - if we are saying a more punitive punishment reduces premediated crimes because people think through the consequnces of these crimes then why are white collar crimes punished so leniently. I'm not into punitive sentences at all but if any type of crime fits this logic it's white collar criminals. B

    B. I agree that white-collar crimes should be treated more severely. However, the crimes of violence which involved broken bones and torn flesh and blood and bereavement just keep getting the ink. For some reason. I guess it's because nobody ever feared to take a walk in the evening because Ken Lay might be lurking. Which brings up the question of what about a crime is supposed to be punished. The amount of money? If a peaceful embezzlement yields $1 mill, how do we equate that, for sentencing purposes, with an assault and robbery in which the victim gets a broken hand and loses $50? We don't want the incarceration of one to be different from the other's by a factor of 20,000, do we? Say, a year for the assault and then we consider the money? How? Is $50 from a poor person equivalent to $1 mill from a huge corporation in terms of harm to any particular individual? Is harm to an individual a valid concern in sentencing? Is discovering your 401k is short $10k the equivalent of being beaten to the ground by a couple of thugs and humiliated, and losing $50? Sounds like a can of worms if you're trying to make some kind of equivalence. I say just strengthen white collar sentences and don't talk about equivalences.

    Yes, Rideau did commit the crimes no question about it! However, by not being tried fairly is the issue and how long should one remain incarcerated?! My God, 44 yrs isn't that enough. I wish all of you would put yourself in Rideau's shoes. Ask yourself where would I want to be if I was Rideau? I say welcome back and God bless you Mr. Rideau

    It is possible to feel sorry for Rideau without feeling that means he should be released.

    Re: After 44 Years, Wilbert Rideau Freed From Jail (none / 0) (#39)
    by cp on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 03:01:16 PM EST
    kiara, let's not forget that the victim of this crime is enduring perpetual punishment. how does eternity stack up against 44 years? how about the victim's family, and their permanent punishment? the bottom line is this: he did commit the crime, by his own admission. it was intentional, not an accident. not premeditated by itself, but the end result of a premeditated felony. there is no question that the south of the early 60's was decidedly racist, etc., which certainly contributed to his initial death sentence. it probably also contributed to his being functionally illiterate. still, he knew right from wrong. don't get me wrong here, i think all those who commit murder should be sent away for life. i'm not talking manslaughter, or accidental death, i am talking about knowingly killing someone: you pulled the trigger, the gun didn't accidentally discharge; you pushed the person out of the car, the door didn't open by accident. there is a difference.

    UnBELIEVABLE. You people haven't a CLUE. It's as if many wrongs make a right and the realease of a murderer merely because he is BLACK and has served a lengthy sentence is suddenly ok. Those of us who are from Lake Charles remember the fact that Rideau not only shot three people. he stabbed two of them. Perhaps Julia's stab wound was "superficial." The other victim, Dora McCain, had her throat slit as well. She actually had to hold her head up with her hands as she ran for help because the muscles in her nack had been sliced, causing her head to fall backward unsupported. All of yoou who are so gung-ho Rideau should try to sleep at nght thinking of Dora running with her head in her hands... trying to escape from the murder you all so badly wanted to free. Hope he moves into YOUR neighborhood. Good ridance Rideau.. And by the way, since you are focusing on writing these days, maybe you can write an apolody to your victims and their families since you have never bothered to even say you are sorry. God help us in this country when we become so blinded by popular opinion that we ignore the TRUTH.

    Jeez, Truth. On this board you mentioned the victims. Have you no manners? On this board, victims do not exist. At the very most, they are an inconvenience.

    My mother worked with Dora McCain from '71-'78. Every time Rideau made the media, looking like a saint, she sank from a sweet woman into misery. The man shot three people and killed one by stabbing her in the heart. Should he be free if, in 1961, he got an unfair trial and should've been punished with a 21-year sentence? Absolutely. Do I have to respect him at all for what he did to his victims because of his impressive resume, his persistent battle for justice, ? Absolutely not. Because he still killed a person in cold blood to cover his own crime, and thought he had killed two or three - likely, at the time, to his own chagrin. Rehabilitated or not, in a hell of racism or not, injustice or no, talent or no, I cannot respect a person who did that at any point in their life. _Cannot_. If he let them all run -- if he shot at them in haste and left them on the road -- I'd see it in a different life. Taking someone's mother's life when you didn't have to -- when you have to stop and take the knife out and plunge it into her chest and wait for her to die before you keep running -- there's no way. Everything he learned from this mistake, I'm happy for him. I'm happy he got the sentence he should've gotten in '61, but would never get today. But I won't respect him for one second of his life, nor mine. God bless him. I hope he stays out of trouble, and I hope he does something constructive with the millions of dollars he will undoubtedly make before he dies. After that -- if you believe in that sort of thing -- he'll get what he deserves, which is not something any of us can determine. What I can't get over is the media portrayal of modern Lake Charles, as if Rideau's life was in danger when he left the courthouse. There were cheering crowds when he left and they'll be cheering crowds when he comes back Wednesday to finish up his paperwork. The only thing white people here wanted to do when they heard the verdict was not buy the newspaper. They all saw it coming -- Bryant was out-lawyered from the start, Spitz's testimony changed the fence-sitter's minds about some of the core facts, and everyone else is doing like Hickman's son -- learning to live with the fact a second-degree murderer got out of jail, and that life sentences aren't life sentences, which people unfortunately don't understand how frequently that happens. The real crime here is: Where the hell were the Washington Post, NY Times, and the local media for the last 35 years? Myths like Ferguson's "slit throat" shouldn't have lasted until Rideau's defense team just looked at the autopsy photos. The conflicting FBI/police statements shouldn't have been gospel for decades. No, they waited until he was out of jail to say, "Hey, Wilbert, how about that?" And that's a shame. The whole thing was a screw-up, total BS, from Rideau coming up with the bright idea of robbing the bank to the four trials to his fleeing Lake Charles while loudly proclaiming his fears for his safety. Good riddance. The only thing he really has to fear here is getting phoned by KPLC.

    Hey, truth, he did say he was sorry when he left the courthouse.

    A side note: On the Newsfeed, the article "The Path Out of St. Charles" is actually "The Long Road out of Lake Charles".

    In 1973 I met Wilbert Rideau personally when he appeared at a criminal justice seminar at LSU law school. We were a class of about 12 law students and had the freedom to discuss anything we desired about prison life and his personal experiences. I found him to be extremely arrogant and what really impressed me was his total lack of remorse for the life he had taken. The facts are that he kidnapped a young clerk at knifepoint and dragged her out into a field where he murdered her by slitting her throat. Why should the punishment for such conduct be lessened because the murderer has refrained from such conduct while under lock and key? Can he restore to the family of the murdered clerk what he stole from them? Can and will he at least be required to provide appropriate compensation to that family for the tremendous loss and suffering they have experienced and continue to experience while so many are worried only about the freedom of the murderer. God forbid!! What has our society become!!!!!!!!!!

    No doubt Mr. Rideau served a lot of time in prison (44 years). But I question why any sympathy for a man who is an acknowledged "killer"?? Why was he convicted of manslaughter, when it seems it had to be at least 2nd degree murder? Manslaughter is killing without "malice". A person who shoots two people, runs out of bullets, and then pulls out a knife and stabs to death a third person on their knees pleading for their life is certainly not "manslaughter". Seems to me that the jury called it "manslaughter" only because they felt he had spent enough time in jail? Maximum time for manslaugher is 21 years.

    Oh, just another thought. I see that the state of Mississippi is now charging several people with the murder of the three civil rights workers who were killed back in the 1960's. As this is another old case, I just wonder if this jury on the Rideau case would have also called the killings of of these three innocent workers "manslaughter"? As a citizen who lives near New Orleans, which is one of the murder capitals on the nation, I am concerned that the new "Rideau standards" of "manslaughter" might make it open season by "similar killers" on any people in this area---both black and white--with little fear of a long prison term. Certainly makes one shudder, and now think like several others, about getting out of Louisiana while we are still able to do so----alive.

    Oh, wanted to also add--- what about the crimes committed by Rideau other than the alleged "manslaughter"? Are not bank robbery and kidnapping also very punishable offenses?? So it's not just a killing which is involved here. Wanted to say "murder" but this lenient jury would not hear of that.

    Gosh. Looks as if the Prisoner-as-misunderstood-teddy-bear thing needs some more work.

    Would you feel as passionately about the need for Mr. Rideau's continued imprisonment if he were a white man? Why has a version of events surrounding the murder that is now rejected by modern forensic examination been presented once again here as fact? Why is it irrelevant that Mr. Rideau has served nearly two decades more jail time than any white 1st degree murderer in the history of the state of Lousisiana? Why is there hostily to the idea of reexamining his case? Thousands upon thousands of blacks were lynched in the south by white people who have never been held accountable for their actions. Should we attempt to hold them to the same standard as we hold Mr. Rideau? Should the FBI revisit these racist murders and open new investigations to attempt to find and prosecute those who participated?

    Kiara: Unbelieveable. So much support for the murderer and so little concern or compassion for the murdered. If Mr. Rideau or any other released murderer looks to repeat their crime, I only hope that they find your home instead of mine!

    Jake: Since you have chosen to differentiate one by the color of their skin, I explain myself in those terms. As a white man whose friend, a black man, was brutally murdered by a white man, I can tell you that I as a white man believe that the white man that murdered my black man friend should never live another day outside of jail. Like the situation relating to my black man friend, the racism thing is irrelevent here. Find a new argument.

    Guy. Jake doesn't have a new argument. And as to the question he posed, Yes. Get the lynchers, and keep Rideau in jail. I speak as one who was P O'ed about Willie Horton before I found out he was black.

    Re: After 44 Years, Wilbert Rideau Freed From Jail (none / 0) (#54)
    by cp on Tue Jan 18, 2005 at 08:52:47 PM EST
    jake, i don't care if he's green, purple or a lovely pastel pink. his skin color has nothing to do with his acts of murder. that's right, murder, not "killing". i'm sure his skin tone affected his original sentence, no doubt about that. and i would certainly have no problem with him being sentenced to life imprisonment. hey, the guy made no bones about it, the evidence wasn't tainted. no one made up the crime just to get rid of an uppity black man. i think any other person, committing a similar crime, should be subject to the exact same punishment. that's an issue for the state legislators, not the courts. it seems to me that the only true issue here is that he was sentenced to death, by an all white jury, in the south, in the early 60's. fine, i understand that, having lived in it for most of my life, up to the present. that was the injustice done to him, not that he was found guilty to begin with. that injustice could have been corrected easily, by commuting his death sentence to life. as for the murderers of the three civil rights workers, i hope they spend the rest of their golden years rotting in a small cell.

    free julia ferguson

    Free at last, free at last, thank God Almight, WILBERT RIDEAU is free at last!!!

    I would like to get Mr. Rideau's email address.

    It wouldn't matter if Rideau had tripped over the money bag and the gun went off and shot someone... this was a killing that occurred during the commission of another crime. You can rob, kidnap, or sexually assult someone with no prior intent to kill, but if they die in the process, it's 1st degree murder. A letter to the editor (not mine, but quoted and credited below) in today's Lake Charles American Press seems to indicate that Wilbert Rideau knew the victims...
    In 1961 I was a 12-year-old yard boy and pop bottle picker-upper who had opened a little passbook savings account at the small branch bank four or five blocks from my house. When I would bring my two or three dollars in to deposit each day or two, the lady who helped me open the account, Miss Ferguson, always spoke to me ó "Hello, Mr. Cryer" ó like a real grown-up customer. She would also remark about my progress, the account sometimes reaching a $20 balance before some shiny object persuaded me to make a withdrawal. There was also a young black fellow there from time to time. Miss Ferguson and the other employees had taken a liking to the unemployed youth and gave him odd jobs around the bank ó paying him out of their pockets ó while they tried to help him find a job. You can imagine the shock and stunned feeling I had as a small boy to learn that this young fellow had robbed the bank and taken the manager and two tellers, including Miss Ferguson, hostage; even more shocked and stunned to learn that he had murdered Miss Ferguson and left the other two for dead. Iím no child anymore, but I experienced that same shock and empty, hollowed-out feeling when I read an almost celebratory article trumpeting how Rideau was released back among us. No one reveres the rule of law more than I, an attorney practicing for the last 30 years. But the rule of law has just suffered an insult that can only be described as unforgiveable. Has Rideau been rehabilitated enough to return to live among peaceful, law-abiding people? Maybe. Has he paid his debt to society? Probably. But to call what he did "manslaughter" in order to bring about his release is a lie. The jury was instructed on the meaning of manslaughter, a killing in hot blood without aforethought, a knife or gun finding its way into a fistfight, a crime of passion. The jury knew that Rideauís killing and attempting to kill his mentors was not in anger nor in the heat of battle. The jurors molested truth and deliberately violated the oath they solemnly swore to find Rideauís guilt or innocence on the evidence. I am ashamed of each and every one of them. There was no evidence that Miss Ferguson provoked, angered or in any way brought her murder upon herself, but thatís what the jury said. She and the other employees had offered Rideau nothing but kindness ó and he repaid that kindness by robbing them, kidnapping them and then cutting their throats and shooting them in the back. His only motive was money, cold cash, the most cold-blooded of all motives for the killing and maiming of good people who were barely afforded a footnote in the Associated Press article. The article also seems to forget that Rideau confessed to the murder and robbery and that not one but three like-sworn juries had heard the same evidence and all three found Rideau guilty of what he did: murder; and all three found that anything less than the death sentence was inadequate to justly punish his cruel, needless and hideous crimes. That the death penalty was outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court prior to his execution should have been enough of a commutation. Mr. Rideau was freed by a jury of oath-forsaking liars. Mr. Rideau is too well-publicized and notable to be painted with the truth, much less have to earn and receive his freedom like an "ordinary" murderer. I am as shocked and stunned at the juryís cold-blooded assassination of truth and justice as that little yard boy was at Rideauís cold-blooded murder of a kind bank teller, who reminds us that although there is no wrong too great to be forgiven, no good deed goes unpunished. -- TOM CRYER Shreveport"
    Could it be that they were killed and/or left for dead because they could positively identify the robber? The fact that Mr. Rideau has served time for two decades longer than any other 1st degree murderer in the state of Louisiana only means that those other murderers were let out too early also.

    AGAIN, Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, WILBERT RIDEAU is FREE AT LAST!

    This sets up appeals for all sentenced long jail terms for TNB, and is the first step to commu-Bushism, same as in Bela Kun's Hungary, free the criminals and have them work for the state to hunt dissidents: "open season" on "anti-semites" and "racists", basically everyone with pale skin who'd rather not be raped or murdered. The "left" work for Bush.

    However one feels about the release of Wilbert Rideau, the important thing now is for him to succeed as a free man, and the best way for that to happen is for him to find work. He is a good writer. If anyone here knows of any opportunities in journalism for him, they should contact his attorney (whose name can easily be found in the many stories on Rideau).

    For those who are referencing the Civil Rights Movement and the words of Dr. King, shame on you. Dr. King, along with many others, was a man of unquestioned integrity and self-control. He had his home bombed, he was stabbed, and yet he never went out and committed violence. What does Rideau have to show? When the going gets tough, you go and rob a bank, kidnap and shoot three employees out in a remote area and brutally stab one to death? (As you can see, I cannot believe this could be "manslaughter") Why is it so easy to sympathize with the killers in prison? Perhaps it's because we can see them, hear them, hear about them that bothers us? How about the voice that was silenced, Julia Ferguson, whose brutally-stabbed body has been in the grave for 44 years? It's easy not to think about her, about how many years she lost because of him, isn't it? After all, she's merely a passing memory now, right? Rideau is not a dumb or insane man, and I don't doubt that even the dumbest or the most loony people in the world know that committing murder is wrong and that there are dire consequences for it. For him at that time, it was the death penalty, and I wouldn't doubt for a second he knew that. Yet he went out and committed his horrendous deed. Life without parole should be more than he deserve, and now even that is too much? Perhaps Saddam might argue for life without parole. Apparently, that means nothing to people here anyway. Perhaps if he shows he's a good boy, he can even go home to his people, if he dares.