Exonerated death row inmate sues the state of Delaware

 Isaiah McCoy speaks outside Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna following a deadly prison siege in February that resulted in the death of a correctional officer. (File/WHYY)

Isaiah McCoy speaks outside Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna following a deadly prison siege in February that resulted in the death of a correctional officer. (File/WHYY)

A former death row inmate acquitted of murder has filed a lawsuit against the state of Delaware for alleged malicious behavior during the investigation, prosecution, conviction and sentencing of his case.

The 56-page complaint filed by Isaiah McCoy and his attorney Herbert Mondros alleges prosecutors pursued the case against McCoy, even though they “knew or should have known” he was innocent.

The document alleges the case was “vindictive, malicious and reckless,” and designed to “torment” and “falsely convict” McCoy.

The lawsuit also alleges that during part of his almost seven-year incarceration, McCoy was held in solitary confinement, causing “psychological and physical damage,” and that he was abused by corrections officers and other inmates.

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McCoy went to prison in 2010 after he was charged with the murder of James Munford, who was shot during a drug deal outside a Dover bowling alley. In 2012, McCoy was sentenced to death. But after a second trial, McCoy was exonerated in January of this year.

The lawsuit claims prosecutor David Favata had a personal vendetta against McCoy after weapon and drug charges against him were dismissed in 2009. Favata allegedly told him “I will get you next time.”

The complaint alleges investigators and prosecutors offered plea deals to two individuals connected to the murder in exchange for testimony against McCoy—and to cover it up, deliberately ignored evidence of McCoy’s innocence, and fabricated his guilt. 

The complaint argues Attorney General Matt Denn was negligent in overseeing the Department of Justice, which allegedly allows the practice of prosecutors offering and accepting guilty pleas from defendants who can’t be proven guilty.

The document also alleges the Delaware State Police failed to conduct a full investigation into the murder, opting not to conduct a gun residue exam, consult with various experts or use certain technology that would have proven McCoy’s innocence.

The lawsuit alleges Favata interfered with McCoy’s right to represent himself at trial and his communications with his stand-by counsel, lied to the judge and threatened McCoy.

The complaint also alleges he wrote a letter to a prison inmate stating McCoy was cooperating with authorities against the Bloods gang in an effort to jeopardize his safety while in prison.

Favata was temporarily suspended from the bar for unprofessional conduct during trial.

The lawsuit alleges during McCoy’s incarceration, corrections officers and other inmates provoked and assaulted McCoy, spat in his food and subjected him to other torturous abuse. The document claims in addition to receiving cruel treatment, he also wasn’t allowed privacy rights or the ability to visit the law library or to get legal counsel.

The lawsuit claims McCoy has suffered emotional distress, physical pain, a loss of freedom, as well as missing out on career and educational opportunities. The document also states he missed the birth of his daughter while incarcerated, and his sister also died during his time in prison.

The lawsuit names several defendants, including Favata and other prosecutors, Attorney General Matt Denn, former warden David Pierce and other corrections officers, Superintendent of the Delaware State Police Nathaniel McQueen and former Superintendent Robert Coupe, who now heads the state’s Department of Safety & Homeland Security, as well as other officers on the case.

McCoy and his attorney want a jury trial, and are seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

McCoy’s attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Department of Justice issued the following email statement;

“With respect to Mr. McCoy’s re-trial on murder charges in 2017, the Department of Justice has stated previously that it was disappointed with the outcome of Mr. McCoy’s murder trial, but respected the decision of the court.

David Favata has not worked for the Department of Justice since March 2015, approximately 60 days after the Supreme Court’s findings as to his conduct during Mr. McCoy’s first trial. The circumstances of his departure are a personnel matter which DOJ cannot discuss.

The Delaware Supreme Court noted in a June 28, 2016 opinion that the Department of Correction had indicated that Mr. McCoy’s conditions of confinement while he awaited his 2017 trial were based in part on his “extensive prior criminal record, including prior attempted escapes, and his misconduct while incarcerated.”

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