Motions Hearing for "Angola 5" Begins in St. Francisville

Published: Apr. 15, 2008 at 10:54 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 21, 2008 at 2:54 PM CDT
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ST. FRANCISVILLE, La. (WAFB) - In a Feliciana courtroom, a state prisoner testified Tuesday that he did not see Angola State Penitentiary officers beat inmates back in December of 1999. That's when the inmates, the so-called "Angola 5," allegedly took three security officers hostage in an attempt to escape. Captain David Knapps was killed in that incident. The five inmates face first-degree murder charges in his slaying. Their lawyers say the statements the five gave police back then should not be used in the trial.

On the night of December 28th, 1999, five inmates - David Mathis, Robert Carley, Jeffrey Clark, Barry Edge, and David Brown - allegedly held three officers hostage. One was Captain David Knapps. Prosecutors say they stabbed Knapps to death in an attempt to escape. Warden Burl Cain told reporters the gory details of the prison's riot control team members' defense tactics that resulted in the death of an inmate. "We rushed and grabbed the door, kicked it down, and when we did, the one with the knife went for corrections officer and when he did, the tag team members shot him two times in the chest and once between the eyes."

During that time, dozens of inmates gave statements about what they witnessed that night. Nearly nine years later, those statements are the center of a motions hearing in a St. Francisville courtroom. Defense attorneys representing the "Angola 5" say the statements should not be allowed at trial because they believe they were made by force. "Several of the inmate witnesses have made prior statements and we're examining the conditions for which the statements were made and the treatment of the prisoners while incarcerated at Angola at this time," says Neville Hollingsworth, the attorney for Barry Edge.

So far, four inmates testified they were beaten severely by officers that night. Tuesday, the fifth inmate called to the stand told state District Judge George Ware that he did not see those alleged beatings and that he was not threatened or promised anything by anyone before giving his statement to West Feliciana Parish sheriff's deputies back in 1999. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against the five inmates. They had no comment on Tuesday's proceedings. So far, six prisoners have taken the stand. A total of about 20 are expected to testify in this hearing. Defense attorneys say the hearing could last through Sunday. No trial date has been set in this case.

Reporter:  Cheryl Mercedes, WAFB 9NEWS