Jury deliberations to continue in prison riot trial

WILMINGTON — Three and a half days of jury deliberations have passed in the second Vaughn prison riot trial and no verdict has yet been reached.

The jury of 11 women and one man adjourned for the weekend on Friday afternoon. The jury was handed the case around noon on Wednesday after hearing more than four weeks of testimony.

Currently on trial — in a second court case in a series of four — are John Bramble, Abednego Baynes, Kevin Berry and Obadiah Miller.

They are accused of riot, assault, kidnapping, conspiracy and murder in connection with the 2017 uprising at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna that left corrections officer Lt. Steven Floyd dead.

The court confirmed the courthouse is open on Monday, despite the Presidents Day federal holiday, and jurors are expected to continue where they left off on Friday.

It’s unclear how close they may be to a verdict, but the jury did request a legal clarification from Judge William C. Carpenter Jr. on Friday morning.

“The note was read in open court and was entered as an exhibit in the case,” Superior Court Chief Staff Attorney Linda Carmichael said of the jury’s request. “The only note received from the jury was the one this morning (Friday). It’s an exhibit which is not available to the public until after the case is concluded.”

It’s clear in both the trials that the juries have tended to struggle in navigating the complicated charges stemming from the riot.

In the first trial the jury took three straight days to reach verdicts. Up until the final moments it appeared likely that they would be unable to come to a consensus on several charges.

Earlier in the day that the verdicts were delivered, they had alerted the judge that they’d reached an impasse and could not agree. Apparently one juror had announced an intention to not return the following day even if a verdict was not reached.

However, they reached an agreement minutes before presenting their verdicts to the judge.

During their deliberations they made multiple requests for clarifications specifically regarding the concept of “accomplice liability.”

Broadly, accomplice liability enables a person to be held criminally responsible for acts committed by a different person if they aided, assisted or encouraged the commission of the crime.

An oft-cited legal example for the theory is finding a getaway driver guilty of murder in a robbery-gone-wrong scenario despite the fact that they didn’t commit murder with their own hands.

In both trials, much of the state’s case has rested on this principal. Though some of the charged inmates weren’t accused of killing Lt. Floyd themselves, their participation in the riot created the conditions in which his death, and the other crimes arising from the riot, were “reasonably foreseeable,” the prosecution has maintained.

It’s unclear if the current jury is struggling with the same principal, but they’ve now officially been in deliberation longer than the jury from the first trial.

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