ST. FRANCISVILLE — A jury of five men and seven women convicted Angola inmate Robert G. Carley of first-degree murder Saturday night in the Dec. 28, 1999, stabbing and beating death of Louisiana State Penitentiary security Capt. David C. Knapps.
Presiding Judge Jerome M. Winsberg said the panel, chosen Sept. 6 in Covington, will hear testimony Sunday to decide whether Carley, 43, should be sentenced to death or life in prison.
Carley is now serving life at Angola for second-degree murder in the October 1987 slaying of a St. Bernard Parish gasoline station attendant during an armed robbery.
The defendant showed no emotion when Winsberg read the verdict.
The jurors deliberated less than two hours before returning the verdict, twice halting their discussions to ask questions about the law and to look at some of the evidence in the case.
Knapps, 49, was killed in the Education Building at Angola’s Camp D when Carley and five other inmates tried to execute an escape plan that involved taking uniforms from security officers.
Winsberg denied defense attorney Tommy Thompson’s motion for a mistrial after lead prosecutor Tommy Block, of Jefferson Parish, turned toward Carley and asked why he stabbed Knapps in the side after stabbing him in the neck with another weapon.
Block was rebutting defense attorney Clayton M. Perkins’ argument that Carley did not have the specific intent to kill Knapps.
Thompson said Block’s comment called attention to Carley’s decision not to testify in his own behalf.
In the initial closing argument, prosecutor Mike Futrell told the jurors that the defense attorneys, in their opening statement, “told you they would make it easy for you.”
Futrell said their defense was that Carley helped plan the escape but withdrew from it when the plan fell apart.
“What’s the easy answer? Robert Carley is guilty of first-degree murder,” Futrell said.
Perkins said Carley was involved in the initial conspiracy to escape, but a new conspiracy formed when the first drop of blood fell on the uniform Knapps was wearing, rendering it useless in an escape attempt.
“Robert Carley was not a principal in the new conspiracy,” Perkins told jurors.
Thompson and Perkins called three witnesses, but one of them, inmate Robert Cooper, refused to testify.
Winsberg allowed jurors, however, to read the transcript of a statement Cooper gave to investigators shortly after the slaying.
In it, Cooper did not mention seeing Carley in the restroom where Knapps bled to death, but he closed the interview by saying he knew for sure that Carley, Joel Durham, David Brown, Jeffrey Clark, Barry Edge and David Mathis participated in the killing.
A video technology expert from Madison, Wis., Scott Kuntz, showed an improved video of the crime scene made for the defense, but no one testified about its contents.
Under cross-examination by prosecutor Lea Hall, Kuntz agreed that the quality of his video, while better than the one furnished him by the defense, was not as good as the one prosecutors showed the jury earlier in the trial.
Tim Scanlan, the state’s final witness, testified Saturday that Robert Carley obviously changed his jeans and outer shirt before he surrendered to Angola authorities, but Scanlan said his original jeans apparently had enough blood on them to soak through two pairs of socks and the leg of “long john” underwear pants.
Scanlan, who heads the Jefferson Parish sheriff’s Crime Lab, took jurors through his reconstruction of the main crime scene, explaining how the blood stain patterns in the restroom related to Knapps’ positions during the attack and the type of weapons used to kill him.
Scanlan said his crime scene analysis showed that Durham, Clark and Brown were in the restroom during the attack, but he ordered additional tests by a California firm on Carley’s clothing that also established him as one of the assailants.
Another jury convicted Clark and sentenced him to death in May, and Angola officers killed Durham when they rescued two other officers held as hostages the night of the failed escape.
Block told the Carley jury the remaining defendants “will have their day in court.”