Jury set for Vaughn prison riot trial

WILMINGTON — After questioning 225 potential jurors over the course of four days, a jury was selected to decide the fate of four inmates charged with murder, assault, kidnapping, rioting and conspiracy during the Vaughn prison riot in 2017.

The defendants — Roman Shankaras, Dwayne Staats, Jarreau Ayers and Deric Forney — are the first four of 18 inmates that face charges in the case. The remainder have been broken into five groups all scheduled to be heard in separate trials between October and February 2019.

After striking 17 individuals from a secondary panel of 60 potential jurors over the course of about two hours, the prosecutors and defendants signaled their content with their chosen 12. Eight of the 12 were white women. They also selected six alternate jurors.

The alternates will participate in the trial as if they were part of the primary 12, with the exception of being part of the deliberation process — unless they are called upon to replace a juror who is unable to serve for some reason.

After selection, Judge William C. Carpenter Jr. — who is presiding over the case at New Castle County Court House — briefed jurors on what to expect. Once started, the judge anticipates the trial taking up to four weeks, possibly longer.

Jurors were advised to avoid discussing the case with anyone, including one another, and to avoid following any ongoing media coverage.

“This was a significant event that caught a lot of media attention,” Judge Carpenter said to the selected jurors on Thursday.

Once the trial starts, the prosecution, Deputy Attorneys General John Downs, Nichole Warner and Brian Robertson, will present their evidence first after all parties have made their opening statements.

Then, individually, the defendants will have an opportunity to respond. Two of the inmates, Staats and Ayers, have opted to defend themselves with the help of court-appointed assistants. Shankaras and Forney are being represented by attorneys Jason Antoine and Ben Gifford, respectively.

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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