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Rideau Freed but Ferguson Still Dead
The Independent (Lafayette, LA) ^ | | 1/26/2005 | R. Reese Fuller

Posted on 01/27/2005 8:44:39 AM PST by mft112345

At the Lafayette Visitors Center on Evangeline Thruway last Wednesday, Wilbert Rideau signs the guest register. He’s wearing a pair of tennis shoes, blue jeans, a gray sweatshirt, a jean jacket and a pair of dark aviator sunglasses. He walks outside to the deck overlooking a pond where large koi fish are swimming close to the water’s surface. “I’m amazed,” he says. “I’ve never seen fish this big before.”

Large carp that look like oversized goldfish don’t amaze most people. But most people haven’t spent more than four decades of their lives behind bars. Rideau is just a few weeks shy of his sixty-third birthday. He’s been incarcerated since 1961, and on this fourth day of his freedom, the fish mesmerize him.

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Government; News/Current Events; US: Louisiana
KEYWORDS: wilbertrideau
Following the verdict, Julia Ferguson's niece said the verdict "seemed like Julia's death was just put aside, like it's just something that happened."

Over the years instead of apologizing to his victims and expressing remorse to their families, Rideau smoozed his contacts in the media and universities to paint himself as society's victim.

Ignoring the gruesomeness of his crime, Rideau's website emphasizes the racial tension that prompted his decisions, and blames society for his incarceration. No photo of Julia Ferguson was present on the site – nothing about her unfulfilled hopes, her severed relationships, her final terror-filled moments.

While serving time in Louisiana State Penitentiary, Rideau often expressed frustration about released inmates who had committed similar crimes. What's unfair and unjust is that the rising cost of incarceration has become more significant than the interests of these killers' voiceless victims.

In 1995, I visited the prison and interviewed Rideau. During our series of talks, he refused to discuss his degree of remorse about his harm to his victims and their families. During one phone call he objected to the topic, asking why we weren't talking about his journalistic accomplishments.

In his latest trial Rideau's defense said, "He did a terrible thing, but it wasn't murder" noting that Rideau was acting "under extreme pressure and provocation." Society made him kill, but his carnage was never premeditated. Rideau brought a loaded gun to the bank and he brought the knife as a back up weapon, but he never intended to hurt anyone. How should Ferguson have begged for her life without becoming an intolerable source of "pressure and provocation" for Rideau?

Life imprisonment would have been just punishment for his deliberate choice to thrust a knife into Julia Ferguson's heart. There is no justice in freeing an unrepentant murderer who never owned up to his full culpability.

Rideau told me, "The crime that brought me to prison is not the final definition of Wilbert Rideau." Now that he's free to further polish his image, will we find Rideau glamorized on the lecture circuit, still minimizing his crime against Julie Ferguson and demonizing those who believe his deceased victims were denied justice? (According to the Times-Picayune, the celebrity has been in contact with book and movie agents.) Or will we find Rideau expressing full and unequivocal remorse for his deliberate crimes and spending his remaining days finding ways to compensate his victims' families?

1 posted on 01/27/2005 8:44:39 AM PST by mft112345
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To: mft112345

So, did they let him out because of cost, because he was exonerated, or because he served his sentence? If the first, then I tend to share this author's viewpoint. Otherwise, take it up with the judge that sentenced him.

2 posted on 01/27/2005 8:52:38 AM PST by Little Pig (Is it time for "Cowboys and Muslims" yet?)
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To: Romulus


3 posted on 01/27/2005 9:01:06 AM PST by eastsider
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To: Little Pig
My understanding is that in his last trial he was convicted of a lesser offense (manslaughter rather than murder), and was released because he had already served more time than the maximum sentence for manslaughter.

Please correct me if this is wrong.

4 posted on 01/27/2005 9:06:52 AM PST by writmeister
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To: mft112345

Jailed for 44 years, Wilbert Rideau always spoke his mind. Now he wants his voice heard in the classroom.
By Monique Green
Contributing Writer

January 27, 2005

Bound by handcuffs and accompanied by prison guards, acclaimed prison journalist Wilbert Rideau lectured at the University several times during the past three decades. After 44 years, the convicted killer hopes to come back and speak to students — this time without the cuffs and guards.

Rideau, 63, was released from prison two weeks ago when a jury overturned a murder conviction and decided he was guilty instead of the lesser charge of manslaughter. Appellate courts granted Rideau a new trial three times because of trial errors — including racism in jury selection.

The recent trial was the first mixed-race jury for the black journalist.

Since the maximum sentence for manslaughter is 21 years, Rideau was free to leave Angola prison — after serving twice that time for his previous life sentence.

“It’s been unreal — that’s the only word I can find at the moment,” Rideau told The Daily Reveille in a phone interview. “It feels so natural.”

Some University instructors and advisers are interested in inviting Rideau, whom Life Magazine labeled “the most rehabilitated prisoner in America,” to share his experiences and expertise. Rideau — who said he has been to the University more times than he can count — said he will “warmly” accept such invitations if his lawyers give him permission.

“LSU has been good to me in the past, Why not?” he said. “This time I won’t have a guard, and I won’t go back to prison.”

Life was much different when Rideau was a 19 year old in Lake Charles and committed an act that even his defense lawyer described during courtroom proceedings as a “terrible crime.”

At a time when segregation and Jim Crow laws were common in Louisiana, Rideau, a black man, killed a white woman.

In February of 1961, Rideau pointed a white-handled pistol at tellers inside a Gulf National Bank and demanded they load money into a suitcase.

Rideau was startled by a ringing telephone and forced two tellers and a bank manager into a car. He claimed in testimony that he was going to let them walk back to town.

In the outskirts of Lake Charles, he shot all three, though none died of gunshot wounds.

One of the tellers, Julia Ferguson, attempted to get up.

Rideau stabbed her in the chest.

A Louisiana court sentenced Rideau to death, but when the Supreme Court outlawed the then-existing death penalty laws in the early ‘70s, his sentence was converted to life in prison.

Instead of letting his youth and life dwindle into tallies on a cell wall, Rideau began a path of reform.

He discovered in himself a talent that brought him national recognition. He became the coeditor of the Angolite, a prison magazine produced at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola and author of numerous textbooks and books exposing the prison system.

He added an Oscar nomination to his list of prestigious credits in 1998 for “The Farm: Angola, USA,” a documentary about prison life.

Despite his list of notable accomplishments, Rideau said he is at the beginning of his life and is trying to fulfill his basic needs.

“At age 63 my immediate need is to generate an income,” he said. “I don’t have anything. I came out of jail with literally nothing. I’m living off the generosity of friends.”

Rideau said he plans to take the most economically suitable career path.

“I’m starting at a time when most people are retiring,” he said. “I don’t have health insurance, I can’t get social security or unemployment.”

After more than 40 years, the Lake Charles community remains divided along racial lines on Rideau’s release. It has been widely reported that death threats have been made toward Rideau. He declined to comment on the threats.

Each of Rideau’s three previous trials — in 1961, 1964 and 1970 — were overturned because higher courts found problems in the lower court’s proceedings.

The second conviction in 1964 was overturned because an appellate court found that prosecutors excluded jurors who expressed reservations about the death penalty.

A federal appellate court reversed Rideau’s final conviction because blacks were excluded form the grand jury.

Rideau refused to comment on the trials and said he chooses to look toward the future, which he realizes is limited but not hopeless.

“I’m not like you youngsters,” he said. “I don’t have time to find my purpose in life — being confused. I’m running on short time. If I don’t have it figured out by now, I’m in trouble.”

5 posted on 01/27/2005 9:13:06 AM PST by Ellesu
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To: writmeister
The last verdict was a travesty. The murder victim was begging for her life and rather than let her go like his other 2 abductees he willfully took the knife in his own 2 hands and stabbed her to death. What other proof do you need for 1st degree murder? He admitted to the act, he had the intent to end her life, he wasn't stabbing her for her own health.

May he meet natural justice from his victims, whom the law have forsaken.
6 posted on 01/27/2005 9:14:14 AM PST by boofus
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To: boofus

Oh I completely agree. I was not endorsing what occurred; rather, only shorthandedly explaining why Rideau was released.

7 posted on 01/27/2005 9:23:20 AM PST by writmeister
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To: boofus
Sweet .50cal BMG, b. I have a Barrett M82A1 coming in April. What kind of glass do you use? I'm looking at Leupold, which I also use on my AR-10A4.
8 posted on 01/27/2005 9:34:39 AM PST by 7.62 x 51mm (• veni • vidi • vino • visa • "I came, I saw, I drank wine, I shopped")
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To: 7.62 x 51mm

That's an Accuracy International AW-50. I wish it was mine but alas I can't afford one of these .50BMG saturday night specials Brady is complaining that all the gangbangers and carjackers have.

9 posted on 01/27/2005 9:58:39 AM PST by boofus
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To: boofus
They're pricey, but I'm in my mid-50s and since this'll be the only one I'll ever buy, I can write the check. Fortunately, my local armorer is a landscape customer of my 20ac garden center & nursery, and wants to barter my services/ products with his extensive line-up of weapons. That's how I acquired my AR-10A4 and Class II AR-15s.
10 posted on 01/27/2005 10:06:44 AM PST by 7.62 x 51mm (• veni • vidi • vino • visa • "I came, I saw, I drank wine, I shopped")
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To: mft112345
As I said on another thread about this, if they had fried him in the 60s it would have been justice, if he had died in Angola it would have been justice, but 44 years is a long time so at least they got some measure of justice in the case.

The only thing really interesting about the case is its exposure, as if it needed more exposure, of the institutionalized white-hating racism of the liberal establishment. Every story makes much out of the fact that the grand jury or the trial jury was composed entirely of whites, as if the presence of blacks would add some special race-base reality that would change the facts of the case. The man's guilt was palpable: he was caught with the loot in his car, he was identified by the surviving victims who knew him well (he worked across the street from the bank), and he confessed. But the left so wants to find poor black victims of the evil racist American (especially Southern) justice system, so wants to reinforce the mythology UPON WHICH THEIR POWER AND THIER PHSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING DEPENDS, they're willing to embrace almost any black criminal who victimizes whites no matter how smelly the case. And the local community understands at a gut level that in cases like this and the Mumia case the facts, and even the case itself, are irrelevant, they are just a club used to express intense racial hatred by the Liberal establishment towards them. That's why Rideau spent ten extra years in jail that he probably wouldn't have spent had he been unknown. They need to go beyond the gut level and understand how racial politics are used to bolster the power of the establishment and cement internal cohesion within that establishment.

11 posted on 01/27/2005 10:38:29 AM PST by jordan8
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