Judge denies motion to throw out inmate’s statements

The judge in the Angola 5 first-degree murder trials ruled Friday that prosecutors may use the testimony of a state prisoner against defendant Barry Edge in his trial later this month.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Edge, 53, in the Dec. 28, 1999, stabbing and beating death of security guard Capt. David C. Knapps during an escape attempt from Angola’s Camp D.

Jerome M. Winsberg, a retired Orleans Parish district judge, denied a motion by Edge’s attorneys to suppress the testimony of former Angola inmate Richard Domingue.

Domingue claims Edge confided that he and inmate Jeffrey Cameron Clark were among six inmates who conspired to escape, but the group did not intend to kill any security officers.

Domingue has said Edge told him 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.

Prosecutors learned of Domingue’s claims in June 2011 and want to use his testimony in Edge’s trial to show that the defendant had specific intent to kill Knapps, an element needed to obtain a death penalty verdict.

Defense attorneys Steven Lemoine and Nick Trenticosta argued that Angola officials deliberately put Domingue in the same housing area as Edge because Domingue had been an informant about other criminal activity at Angola.

In a written ruling denying the motion, Winsburg said Domingue may have at times acted as a confidential informant for corrections officials, but “any involvement or collusion of the Department of Corrections and Richard Domingue” was not such that he acted as an agent of the state with regard to Edge’s statements.

The defense attorneys have until Wednesday to seek a higher court’s review of the Friday ruling.

Testimony on Monday about Domingue’s statements 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, Angola officials testified.

In winning a delay of Edge’s scheduled trial last year, a former defense attorney called Domingue “a professional snitch.”

The prosecutors, who are from Jefferson and Caddo parishes, have convicted four of the five defendants for first-degree murder.

Clark and David Brown were sentenced to death by their trial juries, while Robert Carley’s jury could not unanimously agree on a death sentence and he was sentenced to his second life term. David Mathis pleaded guilty last year in exchange for his second life sentence.