“I don’t know what else we could have done. This is a free murder. That’s what it is.” HUGO HOLLAND, prosecutor
ST. FRANCISVILLE -Barry S. Edge will serve life in prison for the murder of a Louisiana State Penitentiary prison guard almost 14 years ago after a jury deadlocked Monday night on whether to sentence the Angola inmate to death.
Edge, 53, was found guilty Saturday of first-degree murder in the death of Capt. David C. Knapps, a 49-year-old corrections officer, during a botched escape attempt at Angola on Dec. 28, 1999.
After deliberating for nearly four hours, the jury of eight women andfour men were unable to come to a unanimous decision on whether to recommend the death penalty, which is required by law. Their vote for the death penalty was 9-3.
State Judge Jerome M. Winsberg declared a mistrial, which meant that Edge will serve life in prison for the murder.
Later after the courtroom had emptied, four female jurors and one male juror asked to meet with members of Knapps' family.
The five jurors walked back into the courtroom and hugged the half dozen members of the Knapps family who had stayed.
The jurors told the family they weresorry and that they tried, without elaborating on what they meant. The four women jurors cried as they spoke to the family.
Just after the verdict was read, Carolyn Whitstine, one of Knapps' sisters, said, ''I'm think we're glad it's all over with. We're not happy with the decision, but I thank the DA and jury for everything they did.''
Whitstine was one of the family members who met with the jury.
Monday night's deliberations followed two full days of testimony in the penalty phase of Edge's murder trial.
After the verdict was read, Prosecutor Hugo Holland said that because Edge is already serving a life sentence for another murder he committed, the new sentence will have little impact on him.
''I don't know what else we could have done,'' Holland said. ''This is a free murder. That's what it is.''
During closing arguments, Holland called Edge a ''serial murderer'' and told jurors that if they come back with a sentence of life in prison, Edge ''got the murder of David Knapps for free.''
Defense attorney Nick Trenticosta begged the jury to spare Edge's life by imploring members to use their ''personal moral judgment'' in the case.
''The only question today is if he (Edge) dies by the hand of man or God. My God is a merciful one,'' Trenticosta said.
Prosecutor Lea Hall said the defense was counting on a hung jury - not a unanimous verdict - to keep the state from killing Edge.
''This family is asking for your mercy,'' Hall said, pointing to Knapps' family members in the audience.
Edge is the last of five inmates, known as the Angola 5, to stand trial in the death of Knapps during the failed escape attempt from the Educational Building of the Angola prison's Camp D.
Six inmates took part in the escape attempt, and one, Joel Durham, 26, was shot and killed when Angola security officers regained control of the building and freed two other employee hostages.
Edge is now serving a life sentence at Angola for the 1985 shooting death of Clifford Stover Jr. in Jefferson Parish.
Edge was convicted of striking the first blow against Knapps by slamming a hammer into his head before the other armed inmates stabbed and beat him in a Camp D bathroom.
The defense argued unsuccessfully that Edge did not intend to kill Knapps.
Monday, defense witnesses and forensic psychologist Ricardo Weinstein testified that Edge was a man scarred by bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, drug and alcohol addiction and a mother who abused and then abandoned him when he was a child.
Prosecution witness forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner countered Weinstein and other defense witnesses by saying there was nothing in Edge's medical records that indicated any of those of afflictions.
Welner also said Edge exhibited ''anti-social personality traits'' and showed no remorse for his crime against Knapps.
Welner also told the jury that Edge's background shows he was not impulsive but had a history of selected brutality against those who were outnumbered and vulnerable.
The defense also claimed that Edge was struck in the head with a radio by a prison guard on the night of the escape, but prosecution witness Dr. Adel Shaker, a forensic pathologist, said there were no signs of a fracture, serious lacerations or bruises, according to medical records.
During the prosecution's closing argument rebuttal Monday, Hall thundered to the jury that Edge's first life sentence for a murder conviction didn't work and now ''we're on number two.''
''Justice must prevail. I know it's hard,'' Hall told the jury. ''But think of the alternative. All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men and women to not do anything.''
The jury was picked in St. Tammany Parish because the pool of potential jurors in West Feliciana Parish is small and many residents in the parish work at the penitentiary or have relatives who work there.
Other St. Tammany Parish juries gave the death penalty to co-defendants Jeffrey Cameron Clark, 53, and David Brown, 40. Another panel convicted Robert G. Carley, 45, of first-degree murder but could not unanimously agree on the penalty, resulting in Carley receiving a second life sentence.
Inmate David Mathis, 37, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and received a life sentence.
''I don't know what else we could have done. This is a free murder. That's what it is.''