• Correction: A Sept. 12 article in The Advocate implied that Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist testifying in the first-degree murder trial of Angola inmate Robert Carley, did not ask people who knew Carley as a child if they were aware of any abuse he may have suffered then.In fact, Welner testified he questioned them about child abuse, but they said they never saw any abuse or heard of it.
Sept. 12, 2011 story:
ST. FRANCISVILLE — The jury that unanimously convicted Angola inmate Robert G. Carley of first-degree murder in the 1999 death of a prison security officer could not reach a unanimous decision Sunday on whether Carley should get the death penalty or another life sentence.
As a result, Carley will receive an automatic life sentence in the case, presiding Judge Jerome M. Winsberg said.
The jurors deliberated about two hours before returning to the courtroom to report they could not reach a unanimous verdict against Carley, 43.
Winsberg asked them at 10 p.m. to deliberate some more, but jurors returned later to say they were “hopelessly deadlocked.”
Carley was convicted Saturday night in the beating and stabbing death of Capt. David C. Knapps, 49, during an escape attempt from the Camp D Education Building at Louisiana State Penitentiary.
Five Angola inmates were indicted in Knapps’ slaying. One of them, Jeffrey Clark, was convicted and sentenced to death in May.
Carley is serving a life sentence now for a 1987 murder in St. Bernard Parish.
The Angola 5 cases are being prosecuted for the 20th Judicial District Attorney’s Office by Jefferson Parish assistant district attorneys Tommy Block and Mike Futrell of Jefferson Parish and Lea Hall and Hugo Holland of Caddo Parish.
During closing arguments in Sunday’s penalty phase of the trial, Hall told the jurors the penalty should fit the crime.
“Anything less than death is just the same as it was before,” Hall said.
“You owe a duty to those people,” Hall said, pointing to members of Knapps’ family in the audience. “Do not penalize that family with anything less than death. Mercy to the guilty is punishment to the innocent.”
Defense attorney Tommy Thompson asked the jury to “put Bobby Carley in a concrete box (cell) for the rest of his life,” noting that only one juror could hold out for a life sentence.
“I feel strongly that one of you will not take Bobby’s life. My hope is that you will find something,” Thompson said.
Holland, in rebuttal, told the jurors the “only thing needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
“What is another life sentence to Robert Carley? Nothing,” Holland said.
Jurors learned about the St. Bernard Parish murder that put Carley in prison through testimony from Don Diaz of Chalmette, who was working at a Shell station on Oct. 15, 1987, when he saw two people rob a Texaco station across the street and kill the attendant.
The sheriff’s deputy who arrested Carley also testified that the defendant pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in July 1989.
Prosecutors also presented testimony from Knapps’ sister, Caroline Whitstine, and his son, Davy Knapps, and showed video from a Knapps family gathering.
Whitstine said her brother was like a father to her because their dad died when she was 6. Whitstine worked for the warden, supervising the prison’s tactical response team. She said she went to Camp D when she learned inmates had taken over a building, only to learn her brother was one of three hostages.
“I wanted to go to my brother,” Whitstine said through soft sobs, adding later that telling her mother that her son had been killed “was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Thompson and defense attorney Clayton M. Perkins provided witnesses, including Carley’s sister and aunt, who testified the defendant was verbally and physically abused by a domineering father while he was growing up in the upper-middle class Rochester, N.Y., suburb of Brighton.
The witnesses also said Carley was affected by his parents’ divorce and the death of his maternal grandmother at about the same time, eventually turning to petty crimes that put him in a juvenile prison.
Robert Carley’s sister, Linda Carley, said her father, a Xerox Corp. employee, once kicked her unconscious in the street in front of her home and left her on the side of the road when she was bickering with her siblings on a trip to Florida.
Two of the witnesses testified by Internet links with their images projected on a large screen before the jurors. Winsberg told the jury the testimony with Skype software was a first for him since he became a judge in 1972.
Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist working for the state, said his interviews with people who lived in Brighton and knew the Carleys did not mention incidents of child abuse, and, he said, other children in the area did not become criminals because of their parents’ divorces.