Prison riot trial session postponed on Monday

WILMINGTON — Proceedings on what would have been the sixth day of the ongoing Vaughn prison riot trial were postponed by Judge William C. Carpenter Jr. without explanation on Monday morning.

The criminal trial will decide the fate of four of 18 inmates charged in the Feb. 1, 2017, riot that left correctional officer Lt. Steven Floyd dead.

After more than an hour of discussion between lawyers and the judge out of the court room, the jury filed in only to be dismissed for the day.

“The issue that caused the delay hasn’t gone away,” said Judge Carpenter. “Counsel and the court dealing with legal issues and I cannot predict when they will be completed.”

Apologizing for the disruption, the judge believed the issue wasn’t likely to delay the proceedings too much. He intructed the jury to return today at 10 a.m.

No further explanation was offered. Neither the Office of Conflicts Counsel or the Public Defenders Office responded to requests for comment.

The first group of inmates standing trial include Roman Shankaras, Dwayne Staats, Jarreau Ayers and Deric Forney — all accused of three counts of first-degree murder.

As on Monday morning, Staats and Ayers have opted to defend themselves with the assistance of state-appointed counsel and Shankaras and Forney were being represented by attorneys Jason Antoine and Ben Gifford, respectively.

Inmate Royal Downs, described by the defense several times as the state’s “star witness,” had been expected to take the stand on Monday and resume his testimony from last Friday.

 

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