Vaughn prison riot jury reaches ‘impasse’

WILMINGTON — The jury deciding the fate of three of the 18 inmates charged with perpetrating the deadly James T. Vaughn Correctional Center prison riot last year notified Judge William C. Carpenter Jr. that they appeared to have reached an “impasse” in deliberation.

A letter to the judge explained that jury could not agree on some of the verdicts — apparently one juror had announced their intention to not return on Wednesday even if a verdict was not reached.

The indicted inmates are being tried separately in five groups. The first group consists of inmates Dwayne Staats, Jarreau Ayers and Deric Forney. All three stand accused of murder, assault, kidnapping, riot and conspiracy.

Calling the jury into the court, Judge Carpenter informed them that they were free to return the verdicts they had reached a decision on. However, he encouraged the jury to spend the rest of the day (until 4:30 p.m.) discussing the particular verdicts that were in contention before delivering them.

“I ask that you continue until the end of the day,” he said. “If by then you haven’t made progress the court will take the verdicts you have reached.”

The judge also noted that if further discussion was productive and jurors desired to stay longer than 5 p.m., arrangements would be made to do so.

Now in their third day of deliberation, several requests for clarification on Monday indicated that the jury is having difficulty navigating 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.

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