Inmate’s suicide note ruled inadmissible in riot trial

WILMINGTON — A suicide note left by one of the 18 inmates charged with perpetrating the deadly 2017 prison riot was ruled inadmissible Monday by New Castle County Superior Court Judge William C. Carpenter Jr.

Inmate Kelly Gibbs, 30, killed himself in late November shortly after the first riot trial concluded. Gibbs, charged with murder, assault, kidnapping, conspiracy and riot, had just entered a guilty plea two days before being found dead in his cell in Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington.

He had been serving a 24-year sentence for murder in the second degree, firearm charges assault and prison contraband charges.

The documents sealed by the judge included the suicide note and a letter Gibbs had written to a family member. Though the documents will not be used in upcoming prison riot trials, they were thought to contain an admission of Gibbs’s involvement in the crime and his attempt to clear the names of several of the other charged inmates.

Kelly Gibbs

Currently underway the second trial (in a series of four) includes Obadiah Miller, Kevin Berry, Abednego Baynes and John Bramble — all charged with murder, kidnapping, conspiracy, riot and assault.

Bramble’s defense lawyer, Tom Pederson, pushed the judge to see if mention could be made of the letter in the capacity that it implicated Gibbs himself with the crime.

Judge Carpenter noted only that the documents were inadmissible, and mention of their content would likely be open to objection. The judge reasoned that as evidence the note was “unreliable” and the family letter would violate certain “privacy” concerns.

Both the DOC and Delaware State Police have not commented on the documents. In response to a direct question about the existence of a suicide note last Friday, DSP spokesman Sgt. Richard Bratz said only: “Foul play was not suspected,” presumably referencing the investigation around Gibbs’s death.

The prosecution team in the ongoing trial has indicated its intention to rest on Tuesday morning. This trial is now in its fourth week.

From the stand on Monday Sgt. David Weaver, the Delaware State Police lead investigator on the case, recapped the state’s case against Baynes, Bramble, Miller and Berry.

On cross-examination all four defendants’ attorneys followed up on the lack of physical evidence in the case.

They also questioned perceived inconsistencies and contradictions in the many testimonies provided by other inmates who claimed to witness the incident from inside C Building (the site of the riot).

Since each defendant is charged separately, all four will have an opportunity to mount an individual defense.

It’s unclear how many witnesses each plans to put on the stand.

Before adjourning on Monday, Judge Carpenter briefed the inmate defendants on the decision they must make about putting themselves on the stand.

“It’s a decision that’s left solely to you,” he said. “You can discuss it with counsel, but even if they don’t think it’s in your best interest the decision to get on the witness stand and tell the jury your side of the story is yours and yours alone.”

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com

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