ST. FRANCISVILLE — Two jurors who said they could consider giving the death penalty to Angola inmate Robert G. Carley for murdering a prison security officer refused to consider a death sentence during deliberations Sunday night, jurors told prosecutors in the case.
The jury of St. Tammany Parish residents chosen Sept. 6 for the trial in West Feliciana Parish was split 10-2 between death and life at one point, juror Roy Clinard also said Monday.
“I believe we could have persuaded one to change her mind, but the other refused to budge,” Clinard said.
The panel reached the required unanimous verdict Saturday to convict Carley, 43, of first-degree murder in the Dec. 28, 1999, beating and stabbing death of Capt. David C. Knapps during an escape attempt from the prison’s Camp D.
After hearing evidence in the penalty phase Sunday, the jury retired to decide Carley’s sentence.
The deliberations were halted at one point while paramedics treated a juror for diabetic distress, but the jury asked to speak to the judge a short time later.
“We have one holdout. It’s not going to budge. We’re told it’s a matter of conviction,” forewoman Lori Boynton told Judge Jerome M. Winsberg.
Winsberg asked the panel to go to the jury room again to try to reach a consensus, but they returned about 10 p.m. to report a unanimous verdict for either life or death was impossible.
As required by law, Winsberg declared a mistrial in the penalty phase, which means an automatic life sentence for Carley.
The judge set formal sentencing for Thursday.
Carley is serving a life sentence for the 1987 murder of St. Bernard Parish gas station attendant Robert Esposito.
During closing arguments Sunday, defense attorney Tommy Thompson reminded the jury only one juror was needed to save his client’s life and “put him in a concrete box (cell) for the rest of his life.”
Before they left the courthouse, the jurors who supported the death penalty asked to speak with the prosecution team of Tommy Block and Mike Futrell, of Jefferson Parish, and Lea Hall and Hugo Holland, of Caddo Parish.
“The jurors thanked us and told us how sorry they were for the Knapps family,” Block said.
“They said to let them (family members) know that they wanted to do the right thing.”
“They said it had nothing to do with the evidence or the way we presented the case. It was just that two people said they couldn’t consider the death penalty,” Block said, adding prosecutors did not talk to the two.
“What kind of message does that send to the rest of the inmates: that you can be serving a life sentence, kill an officer and get another life sentence?” Block said.
Five inmates were indicted for first-degree murder in the case, and a sixth, Joel Durham, was shot to death when Angola officers stormed the camp’s Education Building to rescue two hostages.
Another St. Tammany Parish jury convicted Jeffrey Cameron Clark in the case and sentenced him to death in May.
A status conference is set Thursday regarding the upcoming trial of David Brown, 38.
“We told them we will be back and get justice for Capt. Knapps. We’ll try the rest of them,” Block said.
“I can’t tell you the sadness and despair I feel for the Knapps family,” Clinard said.
The juror said anger boiled over in the jury room and continued Monday on the bus ride to St. Tammany Parish, most of it directed at the man who refused to consider a death sentence.
Attempts to reach the jurors that Clinard named were unsuccessful Monday afternoon.