‘Intentional murder’ count against 4 prison riot defendants dropped

WILMINGTON — An “intentional murder” count lodged against four of the 18 inmates charged in the 2017 Vaughn prison riot has been dropped, according to the Delaware Department of Justice.

Charges remaining against the four inmates currently standing trial — Abednego Baynes, John Bramble, Kevin Berry and Obadiah Miller — include multiple counts of kidnapping, assault, conspiracy, riot and murder.

Originally, 16 of the 18 inmates were charged with three counts of murder each: felony murder during the commission of riot, reckless murder of law enforcement officer in the performance of his dutyand intentional murder. The intentional murder count was only dropped against the four inmates currently standing trial (the second in a planned series of four).

According to DOJ spokesman Carl Kanefsky the “nolle prosequi” — formal notice of abandoning all or part of a suit or action — was entered onto the record “verbally” on Jan. 3 — prior to the beginning of the trial. However, it appears the counts weren’t officially dropped until last Monday.

“Paper copies of the nolle prosequi were filed on Feb. 4,” said Mr. Kanefsky.

As for the rationale of the move, Mr. Kanefsky claims “the decision was based on the evidence expected to be introduced at trial against the defendants scheduled for trial.”

Notably, the intentional murder count was the only one to have been eluded by all three inmates that received verdicts in November during the first trial.

At that trial the jury found Jarreau Ayers guilty of all charges except first-degree murder and acquitted Deric Forney. Even Dwayne Staats, who claimed to have master-minded the plot to violently take control of C Building (the site of the riot), was found not guilty of intentional first-degree murder. He was found guilty of the other two murder counts though.

It’s unclear whether the same murder count will be dropped against the nine remaining inmates awaiting trial.

“Decisions about charges in the upcoming trials will be made at the appropriate time,” said Mr. Kanefsky.

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