After Months of Investigation, Murder Charges in Vaughn Prison U - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

After Months of Investigation, Murder Charges in Vaughn Prison Uprising Welcomed

Posted: 10/17/2017 20:07:00 -04:00 Updated:
The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Del. (Photo: WBOC) The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Del. (Photo: WBOC)
The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna. (WBOC/Chopper 16) The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna. (WBOC/Chopper 16)

DOVER, Del. --- An announcement on Tuesday that 16 inmates were being charged with first-degree murder in the deadly February inmate uprising at the Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna and in the killing of Correctional Officer Steven Floyd was welcomed by state leaders and members of the correctional officer community.

The Delaware Department of Justice said Tuesday that a total of 18 inmates were indicted in connection with the Feb. 1-2 incident that resulted Floyd's murder, injuries to a pair of correctional officers held hostage in the uprising, and the kidnapping of prison counselor. The decision came more than 8 months of a joint investigation by the Delaware State Police and attorney general's office.

Jurgen Burgoyne, a former correctional officer who said he helped train Floyd, said the announcement was a positive step forward, even if prosecutors face a major challenge in securing convictions.

"It's going to be an uphill fight, unless they have physical evidence and things like that. But we'll see how it turns out. I like where they're going right now," he said.

Wilmington Attorney Thomas Neuberger, who is part of a team of lawyers representing Floyd's family and the other correctional officers held captive by inmates, said the indictment announcement was a welcome development.

"Our clients are pleased that these murderers and kidnappers have been charged, and note that so many are repeat killers. The torture of Lt. Steven Floyd was horrible and beyond imagining. Justice needs to be done here," he said.

The length of time for the investigation had been a source of frustration and concern for some members of the Delaware correctional officer community, with some them worrying no charges would ever be filed.

Even Gov. John Carney, who called for an independent review of the hostage situation, had expressed disappointment over the summer over the lack of charges.

“It is my hope that the indictments announced on Tuesday will be a step toward justice for Lieutenant Floyd and provide some measure of peace for his family, and all of the victims of the events on February 1 and February 2. As we have said since February, we will remain focused on taking action necessary to improve safety and security inside James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, and across Delaware's correctional facilities," he said.

Correctional Officers Association of Delaware President Geoff Klopp said members have been constantly asking about the status of charges in the case.

"It's been a very complex investigation and a lot of moving parts but we appreciate everything [Delaware State Police] have done," he said.

Dover Attorney Stephen Hampton, a lawyer who has represented a number of inmates in various cases over the years, said he is concerned inmate testimony was being trusted to secure an indictment but allegations of inmate abuse by correctional officers in the aftermath of the uprising were going unpunished.

Although Hampton said he was unaware of any evidence prosecutors might have in their cases against the 18 inmates, he did note that relying on inmates' testimony could ultimately prove problematic.

"I can see a potential for confusing testimony and testimony that contradicts one another," he said. "At some point a jury might just throw up their hands and say 'we don't really know what happened here."

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