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Inmate held hostage during Vaughn riot testifies

The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna

Prosecutors called their first inmate witness Friday in the trial of several inmates for their alleged involvement in last year’s Vaughn prison riot.



Anthony Morrow testified he did not participate in the riot— and was held hostage by other inmates.

He said he was on the phone with his fiance as it started, and saw through a door a correctional officer being attacked.

In a recording of the phone call played by the prosecution, Morrow could be heard  saying “they’re stabbing the cop up.”

He told his fiance in that call he wasn’t justifying the violence, but “what I’m telling you is these cops are spraying them … talking about their families … you don’t understand what we go through here.”

He testified that he later saw several inmates attack Lt. Steven Floyd.  

Floyd died of multiple stab and blunt force wounds during the riot, according to Deputy Attorney General Nichole Warner.


Morrow claims he could not identify the inmates that assaulted the officers, saying they were masked at some points and his focus was not on them.

Morrow later called one defendant, Deric Forney, his “brother in Christ.”

Forney’s attorney Benjamin Gifford asked Morrow to confirm Forney was not one of the men he saw assaulting Floyd or another correctional officer.

Morrow agreed.

But when Deputy Attorney General Nicole Warner questioned Morrow again, she established that he did not know Forney at the time of the riot as well as he does now.

She asked if Morrow would have known what Forney looked like with a mask on, and he said no.

Forney is among four defendants currently being tried for murder, riot, kidnapping, assault and conspiracy.


The prosecution also called Brett Smith with the Department of Correction.


Smith negotiated with inmates by radio during the hostage standoff.


Defendant Roman Shankaras’ attorney used a recording of the negotiations to ask Smith about the role of inmate Royal Downs— who is expected to be one of the state’s key witnesses.


This trial of the first four inmates will likely stretch into November.


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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