Prison Journalist Faces 4th Trial for '61 Murder

By: (AP) A prison journalist who has had three convictions overturned in the 1961 killing of a bank teller went on trial for a fourth time Monday.

Defense lawyer George Kendall did not deny that Wilbert Rideau, now 62, stabbed Julia Ferguson during a robbery, but told the jury that Rideau should be found guilty of manslaughter -- a verdict that would result in his release for time already served.

"These were the acts of an impulsive confused teenager," Kendall said.

Rideau faces life in prison on the murder charge.

The longtime editor of the award-winning magazine The Angolite at the Louisiana State Penitentiary has been convicted three times of killing Ferguson.

The first two convictions were overturned on appeal. A third stuck until 2000, when a federal court said he was entitled to another trial because blacks were excluded from the grand jury that indicted Rideau, who is black.

Last October, the Supreme Court turned away an appeal arguing that the repetitive trials were unconstitutional double jeopardy.

Prosecutor Rick Bryant described how Ferguson begged for her life after Rideau drove her and two other bank employees out of town. The other two victims were shot but survived.

Rideau was a near-illiterate, 19-year-old janitor when he held up the bank in 1961. Although originally sentenced to death, he was spared the electric chair when the Supreme Court overturned death penalty laws in the 1970s.

Rideau became a self-educated writer and helped transform The Angolite into a nationally acclaimed magazine dealing with the criminal justice system. He also co-directed "The Farm," a prison documentary that was nominated for an Oscar in 1999, and wrote and narrated an award-winning National Public Radio documentary.


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