Louisiana: Judge upholds Clark's death sentence

ST. FRANCISVILLE, La. (AP) -- A state district judge denied a motion to throw out the death sentence given Angola inmate Jeffrey Cameron Clark and also held a lengthy hearing on funding for a co-defendant's trial.

A jury of St. Tammany Parish residents convicted Clark, 50, of first-degree murder Sunday in the 1999 beating and stabbing death of Louisiana State Penitentiary security Capt. David C. Knapps.

The jury on Monday sentenced Clark to die by lethal injection, but a court reporter discovered Monday night that one juror may have been skipped when they were questioned individually on whether they agreed with the sentencing verdict, Judge Jerome M. Winsberg announced from the bench Tuesday.

The juror, Charles Dye, said under oath that he had reached the same death sentence verdict as the other 11 jurors and told Winsberg he thought he had been polled but couldn't be certain.

Winsberg denied defense attorney Joe Lotwick's motion to sentence Clark to life in prison on the grounds that the jury's verdict was not unanimous. The judge also declined to declare a mistrial.

Clark is one of five Angola inmates accused of killing Knapps during their failed attempt to escape from Angola's Camp D.

Tommy Thompson and Clayton M. Perkins, attorneys for defendant Robert G. Carley, asked Winsberg to strike the death penalty as an option for a jury if it convicts Carley of first-degree murder in Knapps' death.

Thompson said the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections is obligated to pay for Carley's defense because the crime occurred in a state prison, but no money is available to pay experts needed for a trial.

Office of Corrections Service financial officer Susan Poche testified that enough money remains in the department's 2010-11 Knapps case appropriation to pay the Clark trial expenses, but the department has run out of money for the other Angola 5 cases.

Poche said more money is included in a supplemental appropriations bill pending in the state Legislature for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. An additional appropriation for the next fiscal year is included in the department's budget request also pending in the current legislative session.

Winsberg granted prosecutor Tommy Block's motion to set Carley's trial for Aug. 8, and said he will revisit the funding issue , after Clark is formally sentenced.

Published: Thu, May 19, 2011