- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 11, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Lawmakers reviewing the state budget Tuesday were surprised to learn that Louisiana paid more than $10 million for the trials of five men for the murder of a Louisiana State Penitentiary guard.

The issue came up as the House Appropriations Committee reviewed the proposed budget for the Louisiana Public Defender Board next year, which includes $479,000 to cover the costs of appeals in the cases.

Six inmates were accused in the December 1999 beating and stabbing death of David Knapps during a failed escape attempt at the prison known as Angola. One inmate was shot and killed, another pleaded guilty and the remaining four were convicted.

Rep. Pat Connick, R-Marrero, said he wanted more details about the $10 million already spent on the case, but he was told he’ll have to take up that discussion with the Department of Corrections, when its budget comes up for review.

After the hearing, Pam Laborde, a spokeswoman for the corrections department, said the department was required to pay the entire cost - both prosecution and defense - of the trials because the murder happened at a state prison.

She said the costs stretched back to 2005 and included expert witnesses, court reporters, paralegals, jury expenses and other items. Now that the cases are on appeal, those costs shift to the public defender board.

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