Angola 5 trial judge to rule on inmate statement

The judge presiding over the Angola 5 first-degree murder cases is expected to rule by Friday whether to throw out an inmate’s statement against the final defendant facing trial in the slaying of a prison security officer more than 13 years ago.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Angola inmate Barry Edge, 53, in the beating and stabbing death of Louisiana State Penitentiary security Capt. David C. Knapps.

Edge’s trial is scheduled to begin May 20 with the selection of a jury in St. Tammany Parish. Trials of four other defendants resulted in two death sentences and two convictions carrying automatic life sentences.

Judge Jerome M. Winsberg heard several hours of testimony Monday regarding statements that former Angola inmate Richard Domingue gave to Angola investigators and prosecutors.

Domingue claims Edge said he and inmate Jeffrey Cameron Clark were among six inmates who conspired to escape from Angola’s Camp D on Dec. 28, 1999, but the group did not intend to kill any security officers.

Domingue said Edge confided that he and Clark decided on their own to kill Knapps when the escape plan began to unravel and Knapps resisted their efforts to take his keys, radio and uniform.

Defense attorneys Steven Lemoine and Nick Trenticosta argue that Domingue is an unreliable witness who is trying to curry favor with Angola officials.

They attempted to show, through testimony from state witnesses, that Domingue was an informant for corrections officials at Hunt Correctional Center and Angola, where he was housed with Edge to gain information favorable to the state’s case.

The testimony revealed that Domingue gave information that thwarted a 2009 escape at Hunt and, when caught in a plot to smuggle cellphones into Angola, gave investigators information that implicated three security officers in the scheme.

Domingue also offered to give information about alleged criminal activity inside prison by rapper Lil’ Boosie, whose real name is Torence Hatch, and two former Angola inmates accused in the 1972 death of security officer Brent Miller.

Col. Bobby Achord, head of Angola’s investigative unit, testified he purposely avoids cultivating informants among the inmates because of the danger they would face if word leaked of their cooperation.

Domingue was caught up in the cellphone investigation and decided to implicate others to protect his girlfriend, who also was involved in smuggling phones, and to avoid having his chance at parole shot down, several witnesses testified.

Winsberg gave the attorneys until 4 p.m. Thursday to file written arguments on the motion.

The judge also denied a defense motion to quash the indictment against Edge, or prohibit prosecutors from seeking the death penalty, because the length of time between the crime and the indictment, a span of 50 months, prejudiced his defense.

Particularly, a witness who could provide testimony favorable to Edge died several months before the indictments were handed down in March 2004, defense attorney Lemoine said.