Broward Sheriff’s Office Department of Detention staff conducted a comprehensive review of the processes followed during inmate Eric Vail’s release from the Main Jail on May 30, and confirmed that all procedures were properly executed.
Here is a timeline of the events that led up to Vail being released:
- January 29, 2019 Inmate Eric Vail was taken into custody on a no bond warrant for first-degree murder (Murder 1) on case number 19-1440 and assigned jail number 501900331.
- January 30, 2019 Inmate Vail appeared before a magistrate judge for the Murder 1 charge on case number 19-1440, and probable cause was found on this charge.
- February 28, 2019 The BSO Confinement Status Unit received the State’s instruction sheet to change the Murder 1 charge on case number 19-1440 to second-degree murder (Murder 2), and the charge was changed in the jail database.
- March 12, 2019 BSO Confinement Status received a capias from the Broward Clerk of Courts for inmate Vail for the change of charge from Murder 1 to Murder 2 on case number 19-1440 to prepare Vail for first appearance before a magistrate judge on the Murder 2 charge the next day.
- March 13, 2019
Inmate Vail was scheduled for a first appearance on the Murder 2 charge before the magistrate judge, as well as an arraignment on the Murder 2 charge before the assigned division judge. The Inmate Court Schedule for Vail reveals he refused to go to court to appear before his assigned division judge for the arraignment. However, Vail attended magistrate court on the Murder 2 charge, and probable cause was found on this charge. Exhibit #1
- April 03, 2019 Vail was indicted by the Grand Jury for first-degree murder, which is endorsed by a judge with a no bond hold for this charge. The Clerk of Courts creates a new case file for the first-degree murder indictment under an entirely new case number (19-4384) and files the State’s instruction sheet under this case number. NOTE: Neither the indictment with the no bond hold nor the State’s instruction sheet on this new charge were sent by the clerk’s office to the jail.
- April 04, 2019
The jail received a data file (in the form of an excel spreadsheet) from the Office of the State Attorney that contained a data line pertaining to inmate Vail along with data lines pertaining to dozens of other inmates. Exhibit 6 Note:
This data file received from the State does not reflect the charge itself or the conditions of bond for Vail nor does it contain any court order to keep him in custody. The data file sent by the State is compared electronically via computer with the jail database, which automatically reports back whether the subject is in custody. In this case, the system reported back that a person with the same last name, first name, and sex as Vail, Eric was currently in custody (“IN CUSTODY - LN, FN & SEX”). This data file is used to update existing
charges for an inmate currently in the jail database and not to add new charges that do not already exist for an inmate. This information cannot be used to add a charge to an in-custody defendant as it is not a capias, which would contain the charges and the conditions of the bond.
- April 08, 2019 The Clerk of Courts electronically transmits the court docket for Judge Scherer to the jail that reflects a hearing before the court for Vail on April 9, 2019, under case number 19-4384. Note: This electronic transmittal is used solely to prepare an inmate for movement to court the following day. It is not a capias and cannot be used to place a charge on an inmate.
- April 09, 2019
An arraignment is scheduled for Vail on the first-degree murder indictment under case number 19-4384 before the assigned division judge. The Inmate Court Schedule for Vail reveals that he refused to go to court for the arraignment and, therefore, was not transported to court on this date. Exhibit #1
- May 29, 2019 - The Clerk of Courts electronically transmits the court docket for Judge Elizabeth Scherer to the jail which reflects a hearing before the court for Vail on May 30, 2019, under case numbers 19-1440 and 19-4384. Note: See above note for April 8, 2019.
- May 30, 2019
a) Inmate Vail appeared in court on the still pending Murder 2 charge in case number 19-1440. The State Attorney’s Office announces a nolle prosequi (dismissal) on the Murder 2 charge, and a disposition reflecting this decision was signed by the division judge.
The court disposition reflecting the nolle prosequi for the Murder 2 charge in case number 19-1440 was received by the jail. Exhibit #2
c) The jail begins the release process for Vail on the Murder 2 charge on case number 19-1440 since the jail had not received any record of the Murder 1 Indictment on case number 19-4384 from the Clerk of Courts, and therefore that charge had not been placed on Vail in the jail charge database. NOTE: The jail cannot place a new charge on an in-custody defendant unless it receives official documentation from the Clerk of Courts describing the charge and the bond status.
All required checks were completed and verified by the jail, including a fingerprint check, warrant check and sexual predator check, which revealed no active holds for any additional criminal charges. Exhibit #3
Inmate Vail was released at 7 p.m. on the second-degree murder charge on case number 19-1440. Exhibit #4 and 4A
June 03, 2019
An email was received by the jail from an official from the Clerk of Courts, stating that no orders or capias have been issued by the court for Vail for the Murder 1 indictment in case number 19-4384. Exhibit #5
If Department of Detention staff had received a capias, court order or warrant for the Murder 1 indictment at any time prior to his release, Vail would not have been released on May 30.
Today, a meeting was held with the judiciary, State Attorney’s Office, Clerk of Courts and BSO to discuss a comprehensive process that’s more reliable and will help improve the existing system of distributing official court paperwork.
At this time, Vail is at large. BSO investigators and the U.S. Marshals Regional Fugitive Task Force have prioritized the apprehension of this dangerous criminal.
We ask the public to remain vigilant, and anyone with information on Vail’s whereabouts is urged to contact Broward Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS (8477).
THIS REPORT BY:
Veda Coleman-Wright/Dir. of PIO