Delaware officials assure attorney access to ex-death row inmate

DOVER — A former death row inmate will continue to have access to a prison law library and will be able to meet privately with his defense lawyers as he awaits retrial for a 2010 drug-related killing, an attorney for the state assured a Delaware judge Wednesday.

Judge Robert Young scheduled Wednesday’s hearing after the defense attorney for Isaiah McCoy complained that McCoy was being denied access to the law library and was unable to have face-to-face meetings with his lawyer outside the presence of prison guards.

McCoy Isaiah by .

Isaiah McCoy

The hearing came four months after Young ordered that McCoy be released from solitary confinement and transferred into the general prison population.

In his August ruling, Young noted that McCoy had spent more than five years in solitary confinement, although during much of that time he was presumed innocent, either awaiting trial or after his conviction was overturned. He also noted that solitary confinement impeded McCoy’s ability to meet with his lawyers.

“This is an inmate who is on trial for his life,” Young noted Wednesday. “He needs to have access to counsel.”

Defense attorney Herbert Mondros wrote in a letter to Young on Monday that on a recent visit, he and a defense investigator were crammed into a tiny room on one side of a Plexiglas window while McCoy stood in a cubicle on the other side with prison guards loitering behind him.

“We don’t need room service, but we need a place where we can meet privately with our client,” Mondros told the judge Wednesday.

Jason Staib, an attorney for the Department of Correction, said the state was complying with Young’s previous ruling, noting that McCoy has been moved from the maximum-security prison in Smyrna to Howard Young prison in Wilmington, where most pretrial detainees are held.

Staib blamed the recent concerns raised by Mondros on “a complete lack of communication” and assured Young that prison officials would work with Mondros to ensure that he has adequate accommodations when meeting with McCoy.

Staib also said that although McCoy is not constitutionally entitled to have direct access to the law library, he was allowed three such visits last month.

The state Supreme Court overturned McCoy’s conviction and death sentence last January, citing errors by the trial judge and “pervasive” unprofessional conduct by prosecutor R. David Favata. Favata’s conduct included vouching for a prosecution witness, lying to the court, and making disparaging and threatening remarks intended to be overheard by McCoy, who was representing himself.

In July, the Supreme Court ordered a six-month suspension for Favata, who had retired in March, and said he would have to establish his rehabilitation before he could practice law again.

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