YNW Melly has been in a Florida court this week, on trial for the alleged murder of two friends, with experts and witnesses providing testimony. The rapper born Jamell Maurice Demons, who pleaded not guilty in 2019, may face the death penalty if found guilty of first-degree murder. YNW Melly’s lawyer, David Howard, said in opening arguments that the state’s investigation had been “incompetent and incomplete,” arguing his client had no reason to kill his friends.

On Monday, the first day of trial, prosecutors presented the case they put forward upon the initial charges in 2019: YNW Melly shot and killed Christopher “YNW Juvy” Thomas Jr. and Anthony “YNW Sakchaser” Williams on Friday, October 26, 2018, in South Florida, and then staged the crime scene to look like a drive-by shooting. They cited surveillance video of Melly with his co-defendant, Cortlen “YNW Bortlen” Henry, as well as the two victims, in YNW Bortlen’s car when YNW Bortlen had claimed the shooting happened. Prosecutors also claimed that phone data, blood spatter evidence, and a bullet casing in the car indicate the four young men were together the night of the crime and that the victims were shot dead from inside the car, according to trial footage viewed by Pitchfork and updates from LawAndCrime.com.

Later on Monday, prosecutors played audio of YNW Bortlen describing the supposed drive-by shooting to a detective while under questioning; the detective told him there was no evidence of such a shooting at the given location. The prosecution also presented a brief Instagram exchange in which they argue YNW Melly admitted to the killing.

On Tuesday, two crime scene investigators described sweeping the Jeep that the state claims YNW Melly and YNW Bortlen used to stage the drive-by shooting. The defense’s cross-examinations ascertained that fingerprints gathered in such sweeps are not visible to the naked eye, and that not every item gathered was DNA-tested, due to relatively recent cost-saving measures. The defense additionally prompted one crime scene investigator to concede that she may not have changed her gloves when picking up different bottles of evidence, which could lead to a “small” risk of cross-contamination. The investigator said, however, she definitely changed gloves when moving between parts of the Jeep.

Wednesday’s hearing began with testimony about identifying shell casings from Broward Sheriff’s Office Crime Lab manager. Because no gun has been found, the prosecution failed to show that YNW Melly shot the victims—a point that the defense lawyer reiterated in cross-examination. The third day ended with prosecutors submitting evidence, including a photo of YNW Bortlen’s seemingly unblemished hands after the shooting, which, according to the defense, he narrowly avoided by ducking in the car when the assailants drove by.

On Thursday, the fourth day, the judge took a recess to hear the prosecution and defense’s arguments for and against, respectively, the admission of Snapchat videos as evidence; the defense claimed the videos, which show YNW Melly and friends goofing around, are innocuous.

Thursday also featured extensive testimony from Felicia Holmes, a registered nurse whose daughter, Mariah Hamilton, is said to have been dating YNW Melly when Christopher “YNW Juvy” Thomas Jr. and Anthony “YNW Sakchaser” Williams were killed in 2018. For much of her testimony, Holmes said that she could not remember the events of 2018 or subsequent statements she made to police. She also said she felt “threatened” by the state’s prosecutors.

The trial will recommence on Tuesday, June 20.


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