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Vaughn investigation could swamp public defenders office

Delaware Public Media

With all inmates housed in Building C the night of the deadly hostage crisis earlier this month still considered suspects by state police, the Delaware public defender’s office says it could be strapped for lawyers.

120 prisoners observed the standoff at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center that left prison guard Steven Floyd dead – and they all remain under the legal shadow of the ongoing criminal investigation.

“Each and every one of them is entitled to a lawyer and if they can’t afford a lawyer the state has to provide them a lawyer before any questioning,” said Brendan O’Neill, Delaware’s chief public defender.

He says the families of six prisoners have requested lawyers – and one deputy public defender has spoken with a group of inmates who asked for legal help.

That adds to an already substantial caseload. Statewide, public defenders handle an average of 500 Superior Court cases a year well above the American Bar Association recommendation of 150.

Some of the inmates have hired private legal help, while others have filed their own lawsuit in federal court.

Department of Justice officials have not yet filed any charges and no timeline has been offered for completion of the criminal investigation.

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