Vaughn riot trial: jury to continue deliberating

WILMINGTON — The jury responsible for deciding the fate of Roman Shankaras — one of the 18 inmates charged with perpetrating the deadly 2017 Vaughn prison riot — will resume deliberation today. Closing statements were offered by the prosecution and defense on Tuesday morning, after a trial that lasted two weeks. The jury began deliberation on Wednesday and will continue this morning.

Unlike the first two riot trials, one trying three inmates together and the other trying four, Shankaras was the sole defendant. He’s accused of conspiracy, riot, kidnapping, assault and the murder of correctional officer Lt. Steven Floyd.

Of all the inmates facing trials, the stakes are particularly high for Shankaras. The verdict will likely mean the difference between life in prison or being released from prison within the next few days.

Originally serving time for robbery, Shankaras was scheduled for release in April 2018, but is currently being held on “detentioner” charges in connection with the 2017 riot. If convicted of the current charges he faces a life sentence. If acquitted, the DOC notes they would process his release within 72 hours of the court filing relevant paperwork.

Roman Shankaras

For the past two weeks, the prosecution has leaned heavily on inmate eyewitness testimony and two confiscated “kites” (prison letters) to paint Shankaras as one of the primary organizers of the riot that left Floyd dead. Shankaras’s defense attorney Patrick Collins has routinely questioned the investigation methods that lead the state to charge his client, pointed out contradictions in state witness testimony and insisted that Shankaras was duped by Royal Downs — another of the charged inmates — into writing the incriminating letters.

Deliberations in both the previous trials went on for several days each — however, those included multiple inmate defendants.

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