Second trial in fatal Del. prison riot draws to a close

Closing arguments in Delaware's second trial for a 2017 prison riot that resulted in a guard's death are set for Monday. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Closing arguments in Delaware's second trial for a 2017 prison riot that resulted in a guard's death are set for Monday. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Attorneys in the second trial of inmates charged with taking part in a fatal prison uprising in Smyrna, Delaware, in 2017 will give closing arguments Monday.

Correctional officer Lt. Steven Floyd was beaten and stabbed to death during the 18-hour siege at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center.

Obadiah Miller, John Bramble, Kevin Berry and Abednego Baynes stand accused of murder, assault, kidnapping, riot and conspiracy.

In 2017, 18 defendants were charged in connection with the deadly hostage-taking — and 16 faced murder charges. One defendant died last year.

In November, a separate 12-member jury cleared one defendant and found two others guilty of several, but not all, charges.

Throughout the recent three-week trial, prosecutors have called upon inmates to testify that certain inmates planned and coordinated a vicious attack. Prosecutors also played a tape of the distress calls and images and videos of the riot’s aftermath — including debris, shanks and mop wringers allegedly used in the crime.

During the riot, a counselor and three correctional officers were taken hostage. The correctional officers were brutally beaten — Floyd bled out from his wounds. His body was found, face-down and handcuffed, in water and trash in his office.

Defense attorneys in both trials argued the prosecutors have built their case on the testimony of unreliable inmates. They argue the inmates will say anything to get a plea deal and that they have given contradictory statements to police and prosecutors. In addition, they say witnesses were housed together, where they had an opportunity to collaborate on their testimony.

In December, the state paid $7.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by six workers in the Department of Correction and five others — including Floyd’s widow and children. The lawsuit was filed against the DOC and former Govs. Jack Markell and Ruth Ann Minner, as well as other prison and budget administrators. They were accused of failing to properly fund and operate the DOC and its facilities.

An independent review of the prison found a dysfunctional, adversarial culture between prison leaders and the rank and file, and correctional officers and inmates. All of that, the report states, contributed to the deadly siege.

Gov. John Carney has budgeted funds to address some of the issues outlined in the report.

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