Delaware Public Media

A 'dizzying array of contradictions' as the Vaughn trial starts up again

Jan 14, 2019

The second trial of inmates allegedly involved in the February 2017 riot at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center began with opening statements Monday.

 


 

Obadiah Miller, John Bramble, Kevin Berry and Abednego Baynes are the second set of defendants to be tried for the murder of Correctional Officer Lt. Steven Floyd, as well as assault, kidnapping, riot and conspiracy.

In her opening statement for the prosecution, Deputy Attorney General Nichole Warner said the attacks on correctional officers during the riot “were vicious, they were coordinated, and they were planned.”

She said witness testimony will show that all four of the current defendants participated in the assaults. Defense attorneys contested this.

Miller’s attorney Tony Figliola called the state’s case “selective prosecution.”  He said their evidence is largely based on the testimony of inmate witnesses, some of whom were “looking for deals.”

Bramble’s attorney Tom Pedersen told jurors they will hear “a dizzying array of contradictions” in witness testimony— what he called “less than quality evidence.” He also noted that inmates have had time to confer with one another before appearing in court.

Warner told jurors that prosecuters will utilize the theory of accomplice liability, as they did in the first trial last fall. Figliola described the theory of accomplice liability to the jury as “he really didn’t do it but his buddy did, and he knew about it.”

Defense Attorney Cleon Cauley said his client, Abednego Baynes, had no part in organizing the riot— or in the kidnappings, assaults or murder. Cauley said that “being present is not enough” to find someone guilty.

 

The state called Sgt. Jeffrey Smith and Cpl. Roger Cresto as its first two witnesses Monday. The Delaware State Police officials explained photo and video evidence of the building after the riot. Cresto also showed shanks found in the building to jurors.

 

Eighteen inmates in total were charged in connection to the Vaughn uprising.

The first trial ended in November. Only one of three defendants was found guilty of murder.  Another was found not guilty on all charges.

The second trial is expected to last several weeks. Nine other inmates will be tried in two additional trials, which are expected to stretch through May.

This story has been updated.