Filing errors led to inmate's mistaken release, sheriff's office says

Clerk of Courts did not inform jail that he faced new charge, review finds


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Deputies mistakenly released an inmate facing a murder charge last month because the jail had not been properly informed by the Clerk of Courts of his revised charges, an internal Broward County Sheriff's Office review has found.

Eric Vail had been in jail since January after his arrest in connection with the October 2018 shooting of Wadarius Harris, who was found dead in a pickup truck in Pembroke Park.

Vail was indicted of first-degree murder by a grand jury in April after originally being arrested on a second-degree murder charge.

Vail's original charge was dismissed May 30 since it involved the same matter as the April charge, but Vail was released from jail that day, even though he is charged with first-degree murder. He remains at large.

The Sheriff's Office said its review found that change to his charges was not reflected in their electronic records because the Clerk of Courts office failed to update the jail. The Sheriff's Office said deputies at the jail cannot add a charge to an inmate's record without the correct documentation from the Clerk of Courts.

"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," the Sheriff's Office said in a statement.

However, the review did find that Clerk of Courts told the jail of first-degree murder charge indirectly, sending officials a court docket when Vail was scheduled to appear in court in April. But that information was only used prepare Vail for his hearing. That information did not trigger the jail to update its electronic records.

On Monday, officials with the Sheriff's Office, State Attorney's Office, Clerk of Courts office and the judiciary met to discuss how to improve the distribution of official court paperwork. 

Anyone with information about Vail's whereabouts is asked to contact Broward County Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS.