Trial over Del. prison riot ends with no convictions

The trial for four inmates charged with a CO's murder in a 2017 prison riot ended with no convictions on Monday


Associated Press

WILMINGTON, Del. — The trial for four inmates charged with murder in a 2017 Delaware prison riot ended Monday with no convictions.

Jurors deliberated about five days before acquitting Abednego Baynes, 26, and Kevin Berry, 28, of all charges filed after the uprising at Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna in February 2017, The News Journal of Wilmington reported.

A prison guard stands on a tower during a hostage situation at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Del. The second in a series of trials for 18 inmates charged in a deadly Delaware prison riot began Monday, Jan. 14, 2019 (Suchat Pederson/The News Journal via AP, File)
A prison guard stands on a tower during a hostage situation at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Del. The second in a series of trials for 18 inmates charged in a deadly Delaware prison riot began Monday, Jan. 14, 2019 (Suchat Pederson/The News Journal via AP, File)

Officer Steven Floyd died during the 18-hour standoff. The two other officers were released and a prison counselor was rescued by police.

The jury could not reach unanimous verdicts on a riot and assault charge against John Bramble, 29. Jurors also didn't reach a unanimous decision on murder charges and a riot charge against Obadiah Miller, 26. The two were acquitted of all other charges.

Prosecutors must decide whether to retry Bramble and Miller. Deputy Attorney General John Downs declined comment as he left the courthouse after the verdict.

Each defendant proclaimed his innocence from the stand during the four-week trial, which was the second of four associated with the uprising and hostage standoff. The first ended in mixed verdicts.

Defense attorney Thomas Pedersen, who represented Bramble, said the state must "give their case some serious thought and consideration."

"The witnesses they have called have told so many different stories there are so many contradictions that I don't know how they will convince any jury beyond reasonable doubt," Pedersen said exiting the courthouse.

Prosecutors argued the men were "soldiers" in the deadly plot to take over Building C at the prison. Witnesses said inmates used violence to subdue the building's three correctional officers into closets.

While it was unclear who struck the fatal blows, prosecutors argued the men were all liable for Floyd's murder as accomplices participating in the takeover.

The main witnesses were other inmates, who defense attorneys said couldn't be believed. They said prosecutors ignored inconsistencies in the stories of their own witnesses.

The uprising led to reforms with how the state treats its inmates, a $7.5 million settlement between the victims and the state and ongoing civil rights lawsuits claiming inmates have been mistreated before and after.

Delaware Correction Department Commissioner Perry Phelps said he was disappointed in the verdict but respected the jury's decision.

Four more inmates from the building are set to go to trial on murder charges next month. Sixteen were indicted on murder charges and two were indicted on lesser charges. One took a plea to cooperate with the state.

Another killed himself after taking a plea late last year.

Associated Press
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