Prison riot trials will continue in January

WILMINGTON — The next trial to decide the fate of inmates charged with perpetrating last year’s prison riot that left a correctional officer dead will begin in early January, according to New Castle County Courthouse staff.

Jury selection will begin on Jan. 7, followed by an anticipated trial start date on Jan. 14.

In the first trial in October two of the first three inmates to be charged received convictions and one was acquitted.

Coming to a verdict after a nearly five-week trial, the jury found Dwayne Staats guilty of all charges except for intentional first-degree murder, Jarreau Ayers guilty of all charges except murder and Deric Forney not guilty.

Since then, Kelly Gibbs — one of 18 inmates accused in the riot — was found dead by the Department of Correction on Nov. 22, days after he amended his plea to guilty. Gibbs, 30, had been serving a 24-year sentence for murder, firearm charges, assault and promoting prison contraband. Officials confirmed last week that he had committed suicide.

The remaining inmates to be tried have been broken into two groups of four and one group of five. The next group to stand trial includes inmates Obadiah Miller, John Bramble, Kevin Berry and Abednego Baynes.

All the remaining defendants stand accused of murder, rioting, assault, kidnapping and conspiracy except for Pedro Chairez and Royal Downs who were charges with all but murder. Downs has pleaded guilty.

The prosecution team — Deputy Attorneys General John Downs, Nichole Warner and Brian Robertson — is expected to reprise their roles on behalf of the state in Judge William C. Carpenter Jr.’s courtroom in January as well.

Despite three verdicts already being rendered, sentencing for those found guilty will take place after the conclusion of the trials, according to New Castle County Courthouse staff. If the current schedule is adhered to, sentencing may not come till late May or early June.

The much more aggressive original schedule, announced back in September, had the final group of five slated to begin in February. Not only have the inmates now been organized into one less group, but the last group isn’t scheduled to start until May.


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