ST. FRANCISVILLE — The attorneys for Louisiana State Penitentiary inmate Barry Edge persuaded a judge Thursday to postpone Edge’s first-degree murder trial in the 1999 beating and stabbing death of prison security Capt. David C. Knapps.
Edge, 52, is the last of the so-called Angola 5 to face trial in Knapps’ slaying, and jury selection was scheduled to begin Jan. 22.
In three trials, juries sentenced defendants Jeffrey Clark and David Brown to death but could not agree on a penalty for Robert G. Carley, which resulted in Carley’s second life sentence.
A fourth defendant, David Mathis, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to a second life term.
Edge’s attorneys said they need more time to review the documents and evidence related to the cases, interview witnesses and have a psychiatrist examine Edge.
Prosecutors originally planned to try Edge in February, but his attorneys at the time, Nelvil Hollingsworth and Fred Kroenke, won a delay when prosecutors announced they planned to use testimony from an inmate who claims Edge confessed during a conversation at Angola to killing Knapps.
The trial was delayed again after Hollingsworth was arrested at Angola with marijuana in his pocket, and Kroenke lost his certification to handle capital cases this summer.
Attorneys Steven Lemoine and Nick Trenticosta now represent Edge, who is serving a life term for second-degree murder in Jefferson Parish.
Retired Orleans Parish District Judge Jerome M. Winsberg did not set a new trial date but said he wanted it to begin in mid-March or later that month. He told prosecutors and defense attorneys to check on the availability of their witnesses and return to court Jan. 17.
Winsberg’s decision was based in part on information Trenticosta and Lemoine presented to him outside the presence of prosecutor Lea Hall.
Trenticosta and Lemoine argued that mistakes that Hollingsworth and Kroenke allegedly made in representing Edge rendered it impossible for them to be ready for trial Jan. 22.
“It’s no longer a question of speed-reading thousands of documents,” Trenticosta said in explaining the need for a delay.
Their motion says Hollingsworth and Kroenke were “woefully unprepared for trial in February 2012” and, in handing over a psychologist’s unfinished report on Edge, gave prosecutors leads on potentially damaging evidence for use in the penalty phase of a murder trial.
Hall said the defense team has to interview only five witnesses who gave information against Edge.
“There just aren’t that many witnesses, and some are going to refuse to talk to them,” Hall said.
“This has been going on for 13 years,” Hall said, adding that another delay could jeopardize the state’s case if witnesses are not available to testify.
The Knapps family also has waited 13 years for justice, the prosecutor added.
“My heart goes out to them,” Winsberg said of the victim’s family. “Some sort of closure is deserved in this.”
The judge said the complications that followed the release of the mental health report to prosecutors requires additional time for a defense psychiatrist to examine Edge. He set a $25,000 limit on the amount of billable time the psychiatrist can charge.