No more trials, charges against prisoners in 2017 riot

Attorney general: State won't pursue convictions in murder of correctional officer
June 24, 2019

There will be no more trials for prisoners charged in the 2017 murder of a correctional officer, and no more prisoners will be charged.

On June 12, Delaware Attorney General Kathleen Jennings said state prosecutors will not prosecute the last three defendants who were charged in connection with the death of Lt. Steven Floyd, a correctional officer found beaten and murdered after a 19-hour prisoner siege at Vaughn Correction Center in Smyrna.

“The prosecutors on this trial team are some of DOJ’s best,” said Attorney General Kathleen Jennings in a press release. “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.”

Out of more than a hundred inmates in Building C at the time of the riot, Jennings said, only a handful agreed to testify to what they saw and knew about prison riot. She said prosecutors offered no favorable treatment in exchange for that testimony, and the inmate witnesses not only risked their own safety but lost out on opportunities for counseling or work programs because they had to be housed apart from other inmates.

“The trial team appreciates their willingness to try to help bring justice in these cases, and rejects any implication that any witness was pressured to testify. As stated, and unfortunately, juries did not conclude that the state met its very high burden of proof to attain convictions on most of the charges,” Jennings said.

Originally, 16 prisoners were indicted on murder charges, and two men faced lesser charges in connection with kidnapping four employees during the riot. After two trials, only one was found guilty of murder, and another was found guilty of lesser charges. Three were acquitted and two took plea deals. One of those who took a plea deal later killed himself in prison.

Several Republican lawmakers voiced their disappointment with DOJ's decision, including House Minority Leader Rep. Danny Short, R-Seaford.

“We are extremely disappointed in the attorney general's decision not to pursue further justice in the February 2017 prison riot at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in which Lieutenant Steve Floyd was brutally killed by inmates,” the statement read. “It's a sad state of affairs when criminals prevail. It's terribly unfortunate that the inmates responsible will not be held accountable, ultimately allowing the system to fail the victims and their families.

“We understand the challenges the Department of Justice faced, but when a horrific incident like this happens behind our prison walls we cannot stop seeking justice. Otherwise, the criminals win. This was heartbreaking and certainly not a proud day for Delaware.”