Second Round of 2017 Delaware Prison Riot Trials Begins - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Second Round of 2017 Delaware Prison Riot Trials Begins

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The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Del. is shown Feb. 1, 2017, the date when a deadly inmate riot started. (Photo: AP) The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Del. is shown Feb. 1, 2017, the date when a deadly inmate riot started. (Photo: AP)

WILMINGTON, Del.- Jurors on Monday heard opening arguments in the second round of trials against inmates charged in the February 2017 inmate uprising at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, in which a Delaware correctional officer was killed.

Prosecutors laid out their cases against four inmates: Abednego Baynes, Kevin Berry, John Bramble and Obadiah Miller. Each of them faces a host of charges including three counts of first-degree murder in connection to the death of Correctional Officer Lt. Steven Floyd.

Deputy Attorney General Nichole Warner indicated to jurors that cases against each defendant would lean heavily on the testimony of inmates housed in the “C” building, the site of a nearly 20-hour siege in which Floyd, two other officers, and a prison counselor were held hostage.

“We are asking you to use your common sense,” said Deputy Attorney General Nichole Warner, who said inmates would testify they saw each of the defendants attack Floyd.

Defense attorneys during their opening statements pointed to a lack of forensic evidence directly tying each of the individual defendants to what occurred that day.

“There’s going to be evidence that will be different and applicable to each person,” said Andrew Witherill, a conflict counsel attorney representing defendant Kevin Berry.

Despite recovering numerous shanks and makeshift weapons like mop wringers, prosecutors only said Miller’s DNA was found inside the mop room where witnesses testified seeing Floyd being attacked.

Tony Figliola, who is representing Miller, called on jurors to question every piece of evidence --- and attacked the credibility of inmate witnesses.

“Some of them come forward within a day. Some of them say they want a lawyer...They’re looking for deals,” he said.

Before the uprising, inmates had staged peaceful protests over their treatment and conditions at the prison.

A review ordered by Democratic Gov. John Carney found that Department of Correction officials' dismissal of warnings about trouble brewing reflected an overcrowded, understaffed facility plagued by mismanagement, poor communication, a culture of negativity and adversarial relationships among prison staff, administrators and inmates.

Since the riot, state officials have devoted millions of dollars to security upgrades, staff training, improved programming for inmates and salary increases for correctional officers. In November, officials announced that hundreds of inmates would be transferred to Pennsylvania in an effort to reduce mandatory overtime in the severely understaffed guard ranks at Vaughn.

Meanwhile, the first trial of inmates charged in the case ended with one, Dwayne Staats, convicted of murder in Floyd's death.

Staats testified that he planned the uprising, knowing that it could be violent, and that he recruited six other inmates to carry it out, but he denied assaulting anyone and said Floyd's death was not part of the plan.

Staats's co-defendant, Jarreau Ayers, was acquitted of murder but was convicted along with Staats of kidnapping, assault and other crimes.

A third defendant, Deric Forney, was acquitted on all charges.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.

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