Angola 5 trial may be delayed again

Final trial in 1999 slaying of penitentiary guard Knapps originally scheduled for Jan. 17

The new attorneys for the only Angola inmate still facing trial in the 1999 beating and stabbing death of a prison security officer told a judge Friday they probably will file a motion to postpone their client’s trial.

Trial for Barry Edge, 52, who already is serving a life sentence for second-degree murder, is scheduled to begin Jan. 17 with potential jurors filling out questionnaires. The trial has been delayed several times.

“We see some real problems in getting our case together,” defense attorney Steve Lemoine told retired Orleans Parish Judge Jerome M. Winsberg, who has presided over three trials and a plea agreement involving the so-called Angola 5.

The inmates were indicted on a charge of first-degree murder in the Dec. 28, 1999, slaying of Capt. David C. Knapps during an escape attempt from Angola’s Camp D Education Building.

Lemoine and Nick Trenticosta began representing Edge this summer.

One of his original attorneys, Nelvil Hollingsworth, was arrested at Angola and authorities said he had marijuana in his pocket. The state public defender board later declined to renew its certification for the second attorney, Fred Kroenke, to represent defendants facing a possible death sentence.

Winsberg gave Lemoine and Trenticosta until 4 p.m. Monday to file a motion to continue the trial and said he would hear any motions they file on Thursday.

The St. Tammany Parish Clerk of Court’s Office was prepared to send out notices Friday for prospective jurors to appear at the courthouse in Covington on Jan. 17, but the notices are being held until Thursday.

Jurors for the trials have been chosen in St. Tammany Parish because West Feliciana Parish’s pool of potential jurors is small and many residents work at the penitentiary or have relatives and friends who work there.

Also on Friday, Trenticosta and Lemoine again urged Winsberg to call a special hearing on the question of whether Edge’s constitutional rights were violated by the lack of effective counsel from his original attorneys.

The issue was prompted by the first defense team giving prosecutors a report by forensic psychologist Dr. Robert Storer, which Trenticosta and Lemoine said contained information damaging to Edge’s defense.

The report included numerous statements to Storer, including the allegation that Edge raped his ex-wife.

Winsberg ruled on Nov. 29 that prosecutors cannot use the report or any information derived from it in the case, but he agreed that nothing prevents prosecutors or state expert witness Dr. Michael Welner from developing the information from other sources.

Welner has testified in the penalty phase of the three trials that inmates Jeffrey Clark, Robert Carley and David Brown would continue to be dangerous if they continued serving life sentences.

“The bell’s been rung; the toothpaste’s out of the tube. You can’t unring the bell or put the toothpaste back in,” Winsberg said.

Winsberg took issue with the defense’s characterization of his earlier ruling that turning over the report amounted to “ineffective assistance of counsel.”

“Turning over the report to the state was a big mistake,” Winsberg said, adding that in making his ruling he saw no reason to conclude that Edge’s earlier attorneys were ineffective.