ST. FRANCISVILLE — Attorneys for Angola 5 defendant David Mathis persuaded a judge Friday to allow them to use a purported jailhouse confession they say would show jurors their client had no intent to kill a prison security officer in 1999.
Mathis, 36, faces a first-degree murder trial in the stabbing and beating death of Capt. David C. Knapps. Mathis is serving a life sentence for second-degree murder in the slaying of his adoptive grandmother in Baker.
Jury selection is set to begin Sept. 24 in Covington, where juries were chosen last year for three of Mathis’ codefendants. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Presiding Judge Jerome M. Winsberg said defense attorneys Rachel Conner and Jim Boren may use a statement a former Angola inmate, Richard Domingue, gave to investigators about a discussion of the slaying he had with inmate Barry Edge.
Domingue claimed Edge, who is scheduled for trial in January in the slaying of Knapps, said he was among six inmates who plotted an escape from Angola’s Camp D, but the group did not intend to kill any security officers, Conner said.
According to Domingue’s statement, Edge and codefendant Jeffrey Clark decided at the last moment to kill Knapps when he resisted their efforts to take his keys, radio and uniform, Conner said.
Conner said the statement, although it is hearsay evidence, should be admitted because it goes to the heart of Mathis’ defense: that he was a lookout for the conspirators and had no intent to kill Knapps.
Over prosecution objections, Winsberg said, he would allow defense attorneys to use the statement in the trial, but he asked both sides for suggestions on any qualifying statements he should make to the jury about the statement’s hearsay nature.
Defense attorneys also are having a handwriting expert judge the validity of a letter purportedly written by Edge in which inmate Joel Durham, rather than Clark, is identified as the person who joined Edge to make a snap decision to kill Knapps.
The judge and attorneys refer to the letter as a “kite,” prison slang for a letter written by one inmate but mailed by another.
Durham was killed when the prison tactical team stormed the building to free two hostages. Mathis was shot in the face.
Winsberg also allowed Boren and Conner to subpoena four out-of-state witnesses in addition to the 16 witnesses that indigent defendants are allowed by law at state expense.
In arguing for the additional witnesses, Boren disclosed that part of their defense would be that some prison security officers were involved in the escape plot.
While arguing for the admissibility of Domingue’s statement, Conner also said a prison officer was supposed to supply a getaway car to the inmates after they walked out of the camp, posing as guards.