ST. FRANCISVILLE — The state judge presiding over the Angola 5 first-degree murder cases denied a motion to reconsider inmate Jeffrey Cameron Clark’s death sentence but set an Aug. 23 hearing on funding for Clark’s appeal.
A jury picked in St. Tammany Parish convicted Clark of first-degree murder in May and sentenced him to die by lethal injection for the Dec. 28, 1999, slaying of security Capt. David C. Knapps during a botched escape attempt.
After lengthy delays, a West Feliciana Parish grand jury indicted Clark, 50, and four other Angola inmates in 2004.
A trial for a second defendant, Robert G. “New York” Carley, 43, is scheduled to begin with jury selection in Covington on Aug. 29.
The state, through the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, is paying defense attorneys for their work and expenses in defending the five inmates in their trials, but attorney Ben Cohen said neither corrections nor the state Indigent Defender Board has agreed to fund the costs of Clark’s death sentence appeal.
Cohen and other lawyers for the Capital Appeals Project are handling Clark’s appeal.
Prosecutor Tommy Block said corrections lawyers contend state law requires their department to fund the prosecution because the crime occurred in a state prison but the law does not require it to pay for an appeal.
Judge Jerome M. Winsberg asked Cohen to put the issue in a formal motion “and we’ll have some kind of litigation.”
Winsberg, a retired Orleans Parish Criminal District Court judge, briefly heard arguments from Cohen and prosecutor Juliet L. Clark on the motion to reconsider Clark’s death sentence, then denied it without comment.
Cohen argued the question of whether Jeffrey Clark should live or die hinges on society’s evolving standards of decency, noting recent bans on imposing the death penalty on juveniles, mentally handicapped defendants and rapists.
Jeffrey Clark was convicted as a principal to a crime the state contends was committed by all five surviving defendants, but the state should have to prove who killed Knapps “to determine who is the worst of the worst.”
Juliet Clark argued that the evidence was overwhelming against Jeffrey Clark and that he was “more than actively involved” in killing Knapps.
She also contended Winsberg does not have jurisdiction to set aside the death sentence because the sentence is mandatory when decided by a jury. The state Supreme Court has jurisdiction in death penalty appeals in order to set standards of uniformity in capital sentencing, she said.
Winsberg did not address the jurisdictional issue in denying the motion.
In Carley’s case, another hearing on several issues is set for Aug. 25 in Covington, when prospective jurors will be asked to answer questionnaires to aid the lawyers in questioning them the following week.
One pending issue is whether a New York witness may testify via Skype or a regular telephone connection because she has persuaded a judge that she is too ill to travel to Louisiana.