Vaughn riot trials: Justice department drops remaining charges

The Delaware Department of Justice announced Wednesday that it will not pursue the pending charges against the remaining inmates accused of perpetrating the deadly riot at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in February 2017.

In a statement, officials said: “On the morning of February 2, 2017, a correctional officer was found dead – tragically and brutally murdered – in a prison building that had been set on fire, flooded, and under the control of inmates for 24 hours. Obtaining a measure of justice for Lt. Steven Floyd meant spending almost two years trying to piece together what happened in the building with no physical, video, or audio evidence, using only statements from more than a hundred inmates who were both suspects and witnesses. From the outset, it was always going to be one of the hardest cases for the Delaware State Police to investigate and for the Department of Justice to prove.”

Calling the work of prosecutors and investigators associated with the case “herculean,” the agency noted that they were successful in securing convictions for Dwayne Staats for murder, riot, kidnapping, assault, and conspiracy, and Jarreau Ayers for riot, kidnapping, assault, and conspiracy.

“The prosecutors on this trial team are some of DOJ’s best,” said the statement. “Their devotion to this case and their adherence to the Court’s highest ethical standards are unwavering. Nevertheless, three juries have since shown that proving beyond a reasonable doubt who was responsible for Lt. Floyd’s death is no longer possible. Therefore, prosecutors have advised the Court that the State will not move forward with any further pending charges in connection with the Vaughn riot.”

The DOJ extended its regards to the riot survivors and their families.
“Above all else, Sandra Floyd, her family, the two correctional officers and the counselor who endured the ordeal, and the entire staff of the Department of Correction are in all of our hearts, as they have been throughout this tragedy,” the statement read.

The DOJ also noted that they appreciated the cooperation of inmate eyewitnesses who testified during the ongoing trials and, as they have in the past, denied that any of them received special treatment as an inducement for their help.

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