Most inmates accused in Delaware prison riot no longer face charges

The state Attorney General’s Office says it will prosecute only three inmates, at two trials, in the death of a correctional officer.

James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware (WHYY, file)

James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware (WHYY, file)

State prosecutors in Delaware originally planned four trials of 18 inmates accused in the 2017 riot that ended with the death of correctional officer Steven Floyd. But after two trials, only one inmate was found guilty of murder in Floyd’s death. A second inmate was found guilty of other charges including riot, conspiracy, kidnapping, and assault.

Both those convictions came in the first trial last November. The latest trial against four inmates ended in February with no convictions.

Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings’ office now says the state will prosecute only three inmates in two additional trials set for later this year.

“Prosecutors have an obligation only to prosecute criminal cases where they believe there is a reasonable likelihood of a conviction at trial based on the evidence,” Jennings’ office said in a statement. The AG’s Office also said the victims in the case had been notified of the decision.

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Though it was unclear who threw the fatal blows that killed Floyd, prosecutors argued the men were all liable for his murder as accomplices participating in the prison uprising.

Defense attorneys argued that since the main witnesses were other inmates, they couldn’t be trusted. They accused prosecutors of ignoring inconsistencies in those witnesses’ stories.

The remaining three men will be tried in two separate trials: Roman Shankaras will be tried in April; Lawrence Michaels and Alejandro Rodriguez-Ortiz will go on trial in October.

The uprising led to reforms of how the state treats its inmates. In December, a $7.5 million settlement was reached between the riot’s victims and the state.

There are still ongoing civil rights lawsuits claiming inmates have been mistreated before and since the riot.

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