Charges have been dropped again two inmates who were scheduled to be tried in the fall in connection with the 2017 riot at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna.
The Delaware Department of Justice's announcement Wednesday comes after several trials failed to yield convictions for the murder of correctional officer Lt. Steven Floyd, who was found handcuffed and face down in water, dead, following the riot.
"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," DOJ spokesman Mat Marshall said in a written statement.
The decision also comes after the Delaware DOJ dropped charges against six inmates in March, following the second trial, wherein no convictions were secured.
Charges are being dropped against several inmates who were scheduled to head to trial later this year in connection with the fatal prison riot at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in 2017.
Marshall called prosecutors and investigators work over two years to determine who was responsible for the riot in a case with very little physical evidence--much of it destroyed by fire and water during the riot in C building--"herculean".
"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," said Marshall. "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."
In Roman Shankaras' solo trial last month, it was revealed that makeshift weapons had been found inside Building C, more than two years after the riot.
Only inmate Dwayne Staats was convicted for the murder of Floyd. Jarreau Ayers was convicted of riot, kidnapping, assault and conspiracy. All other inmates who've been tried have been awarded acquittals or a hung jury.
Marshall noted prosecutors John Downs, Brian Robertson, and Nichole Warner are "some of DOJ's best."
"Their devotion to this case and their adherence to the Court’s highest ethical standards are unwavering," he said.
Shankaras, who was the only inmate acquitted in the riot to be freed from prison, criticized the investigation, calling it "horrible." In an in-depth sit-down interview with WDEL, he said prosecutors and investigators should feel "ashamed and guilty" by their efforts. He called for charges against inmates, Lawrence "Smoke" Michaels and Alejandro Rodriguez-Ortiz, who were scheduled for trial until now, to be dropped.
Prosecutors had also come under the microscope for offering a deal to the state's star witness Royal "Diamond" Downs. They insisted no other inmates were given deals in the case, but Shankaras said even a "hope" for a better life behind bars or a modified sentence was enough to get inmates to say anything, even if it was true, on the witness stand.
"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," said Marshall. "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."
"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," said Marshall.
Attorney General Kathy Jennings didn't immediately respond to WDEL's request for an interview.