Defendants' Attorneys in Vaughn Lawsuit Ask for Case to be Dismi - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Defendants' Attorneys in Vaughn Lawsuit Ask for Case to be Dismissed

Posted: Jul 06, 2017 7:48 PM Updated:
The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna. (WBOC/Chopper 16) The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna. (WBOC/Chopper 16)

Attorneys representing former and current state officials being sued in connection to a fatal hostage situation at a Smyrna-area prison have asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit.

The requests were made in response to a lawsuit filed by the family of slain correctional officer Steven Floyd, who was killed in the Feb. 1 incident at the Vaughn Correctional Center, and other correctional officers and staffers who survived the incident.

The lawsuit accuses a number of current and former state officials---including a pair of former governors---of ignoring problems with staffing and security issues at the prison over the course of years, which led to an unsafe working environment that contributed to the hostage situation.

However, attorneys for the state argued in court documents filed last week there are a number of issues with the lawsuit and claim there's no constitutional right to workplace safety.

Wilmington Attorney Tom Neuberger, who is part of a team of lawyers representing the Floyd family and other plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said a response is due later this summer.

No criminal charges have been filed in Floyd's death. Neuberger acknowledged concerns about whether charges will ever be filed and said Floyd's widow and family still have not been told the exact circumstances of how Floyd died.

"It's five months by now. Obviously, if they had some evidence they'd be charging somebody," he said.

Delaware State Police said in February that an autopsy ruled Floyd's death as homicide by trauma.

Carl Kanefsky, a spokesman for the Delaware Attorney General's office, issued an identical statement on Thursday about the status of the investigation to one he gave at the onset of June, after Gov. John Carney said he was disappointed no one had been charged yet in Floyd's death.

Kanefsky said police and prosecutors are working thoroughly to bring those responsible for Floyd's "murder" to justice.

"Their job is complicated in this case by the sheer number of potential witnesses and defendants, and the fact that many of them are prison inmates," he said.

Dover Attorney Stephen Hampton, who has received more than 200 letters from inmates alleging abuse and mistreatment at the hands of correctional officers and staffers in the hours, days, and weeks following the hostage situation, said stories of beatings and other inappropriate actions from prison staff may make prosecution more difficult.

"I think all of the witnesses are conflicted and you're going to have a lot of room for cross examination on how they were treated and if they're being pressured," he said.

A lawsuit filed by an inmate who said he was in the "C" building during the riot claims inmates directly involved the hostage situation disguised their identities. An independent review on the incident said the "C" building did not have cameras.

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