ST. FRANCISVILLE — Jurors in the first-degree murder trial of Angola 5 inmate Barry S. Edge heard testimony Sunday from relatives of the Louisiana State Penitentiary officer killed nearly 14 years ago, as well as from Edge’s family members.
On Saturday, a jury of eight women and four men picked in St. Tammany Parish convicted Edge, 53, of first-degree murder of Capt. David Knapps, 49, during a botched escape attempt from the Angola prison’s Camp D on Dec. 28, 1999.
The jury will return Monday for more testimony on the question of whether they should give Edge a death sentence or a life sentence. A unanimous verdict is needed for the death penalty.
Prosecutors opened the trial’s penalty phase with testimony from Knapps’ sister, retired corrections employee Carolyn Whitstine, who said her brother became a father figure to her and her siblings after their father died of cancer at age 41.
“That part of my life is gone, and I’ll never forget that,” Whitstine said between sobs.
Whitstine said she went to Camp D the night of the incident because she knew her brother was working there at the time.
“It was horrible. The warden I worked for came to me and told me my brother was dead,” she said.
Jurors also viewed a video of a Knapps’ family gathering in which David Knapps played the guitar for the family’s entertainment.
After he died, the frequency of the gatherings gradually diminished and are no longer held, Whitstine and family member Shannon Herring testified.
Prosecutors also introduced Edge’s prison record that includes information about his second-degree murder conviction in the May 1985 slaying of Clifford Stover Jr. in Jefferson Parish.
Edge’s father, Willard Edge, and older brother, David, testified Edge’s mother left their home when Barry Edge was 9 but was cold toward the younger boy from his birth.
Edge did poorly in school and finally dropped out in the 10th grade, they said.
“He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. He’s always been kind of slow,” David Edge said.
Dr. James Merikangas, of Maryland, testified Edge was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and probably was born with brain damage.
Edge also has obsessive-compulsive disorder, Merikangas said.
“He washes his hands 20 times a day,” the psychiatrist said.
Jurors also heard testimony from Angola inmate Alan Muhleisen, a Eucharistic minister who visits Edge about once a week and helped him to be baptized as a Catholic.
“He has grown stronger in his faith. As you get closer to God, you can see more of the evil you’ve done in your life,” Muhleisen said.
Presiding Judge Jerome M. Winsberg recessed the trial during lengthy testimony by California psychologist Ricardo Weinstein, who has examined Edge for the defense.
Weinstein is expected to return to the witness stand Monday.