Former death row inmate’s lawsuit dismissed

WILMINGTON — A judge last Friday granted prosecutors, police and prison staff’s motions to dismiss a former Delaware death row inmate’s federal lawsuit.

Isaiah W. McCoy’s claims of constitutional rights violations and improper prosecution tactics in two murder trials following a 2010 incident in Dover fell short, according to a 29-page opinion.

After mistrial and not guilty findings in two prosecutions, Mr. McCoy was released from James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna after incarceration from May 2010 until January 2017. He was initially charged with the shooting death of James Munford near a Rodney Village bowling alley on May 4, 2010.

Eleven defendants were released from a lawsuit, while claims against the lead prosecutor in Mr. McCoy’s first trial were not addressed in the opinion. United States District Judge Maryellen Noreika rendered the decision.

In the first trial, Mr. McCoy was initially found guilty and sentenced to death on Oct. 11, 2012, but the verdict was later reversed and returned to Superior Court due to an alleged “number of improper actions during the prosecution of the case” by the lead attorney.

Following a 10-day bench trial, Mr. McCoy was found not guilty of murder on Jan. 19, 2017 and released from prison.

The plaintiff alleged that Delaware State Police detectives conducted a constitutionally deficient investigation involving evidence collection and interrogation techniques, along with “sweet plea deals” offered to those testifying against him.

In the second trial, Mr. McCoy claimed that prosecutors and police knew there was “no credible evidence to support the charges that (the plaintiff) was involved in the shooting” but nevertheless pushed for a retrial and death penalty finding.

Once in prison, Mr. McCoy alleged that he was physically and mentally abused, tortured and held in solitary confinement while a pre-trial detainee.

The judge dismissed claims against then-Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn and -Delaware State Police Supt. Robert Coupe, along with current Supt. Nathaniel McQueen and then-JTVCC-Warden David Pierce due to immunity from actions of staff members.

With no allegations (or factual support) that an indictment was gained through fraud, perjury or other corrupt actions, claims against the DSP were deficient, the judge found.

Attorneys are absolutely immune to liability when offering plea deals, according to the opinion. No malicious prosecution was shown, the opinion stated.

No plausible allegations that three DOC officers were responsible for treatment in prison were made, the judge said.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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