Angola 5 trial delayed again

Over the objections of a prosecutor, the last defendant awaiting trial in the 1999 beating death of a Louisiana State Penitentiary security officer won his fourth trial delay Thursday.

Steven Lemoine and Nick Trenticosta, attorneys for Angola inmate Barry S. Edge, earlier this week requested postponement of the May 20 trial because Trenticosta’s father is facing open heart surgery at about the same time.

Potential jurors were scheduled to appear in court May 16 in Covington to fill out questionnaires for state and defense attorneys.

No date was set Thursday for trying the case.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Edge, 53, in the slaying of Capt. David C. Knapps during a foiled escape attempt from Angola’s Camp D.

Lemoine told Judge Jerome M. Winsberg that Nick Trenticosta is “a tough guy” used to working under pressure, but he has lost his focus in recent days because of the illnesses of his father and mother.

“In the last 10 days, he’s been somewhere else. He’s not the same person,” Lemoine told the retired Orleans Parish judge presiding over the case.

Lemoine said other members of his colleague’s family will be able to tend to the elderly Trenticostas later this summer, but not this month.

Prosecutor Tommy Block, of Jefferson Parish, said he is sympathetic to Trenticosta’s family situation, but “these cases are personally, professionally and emotionally demanding on each and every one of us.”

After taking office in January 2003, 20th Judicial District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla arranged for Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick to take over prosecution of the so-called Angola 5 inmates accused of killing Knapps.

D’Aquilla recused himself from the case because he briefly represented Edge while serving as a public defense attorney.

Block, Mike Futrell, Lea Hall and Hugo Holland have prosecuted the other four defendants, obtaining two death sentences and two convictions resulting in life sentences.

Block said he and the others are working in nine parishes across the state on cases involving murder and aggravated rape and will have to rearrange their schedules again to proceed with Edge’s trial.

Block also asked Winsberg to consider the Knapps family, some of whom were in the courtroom Thursday, as well as two officers held hostage and traumatized by the incident.

Winsberg said the court’s concern for the victims in the case, including the two hostages, is “extremely important,” as is Edge’s legal situation if he is convicted and appellate lawyers later contend he did not receive adequate representation at trial.

In granting the motion, Winsberg referred to Trenticosta’s affidavit in which he says he is going through a very emotional time because of his family obligations.

“It is becoming increasingly clear to me that I do not have the capacity to provide the zealous representation to Mr. Edge during this trying time,” Trenticosta said in the affidavit.

Lemoine and Trenticosta took over Edge’s defense last year after one of his attorneys was arrested with marijuana in his pocket at Angola and the other lost his certification to handle capital cases.