FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A deadlocked jury prompted a mistrial Saturday in the South Florida trial of rapper YNW Melly on charges that he murdered two of his friends five years ago.
The 12-member panel could not reach a unanimous verdict after three days of deliberations. Broward County prosecutors, who had been seeking the death penalty, will likely choose to retry the case with a new jury. A unanimous verdict is required to convict or acquit a defendant.
Broward Circuit Judge John Murphy twice asked the jurors to keep deliberating after they said they were deadlocked, but relented after they came back a third time.
Prosecutors say YNW Melly, whose legal name is Jamell Demons, shot Anthony Williams and Christopher Thomas Jr. while they were all inside a Jeep. Williams and Thomas were both part of the YNW collective, known respectively as YNW Sakchaser and YNW Juvy.
Prosecutors said the shooting was part of a gang action, while defense attorneys said that claim lacks credibility because Demons and the victims were close friends.
According to prosecutors, Demons, Williams and Thomas were riding in a Jeep driven by Cortland Henry, known as YNW Bortlen, after a recording session in Fort Lauderdale on Oct. 26, 2018. They say Demons fatally shot Williams and Thomas. Henry is charged as an accomplice in the case and will be tried separately.
After killing Williams and Thomas, prosecutors said Demons and Henry drove the bodies to an area near the Everglades, where they shot at the back and passenger sides of Henry’s Jeep from the outside to make it look like Williams and Thomas had been the victims of a drive-by shooting.
But prosecutors say ballistics tests show the pair were shot from inside the Jeep.
Defense lawyers focused on the fact that the gun was never recovered. They also told jurors that YNW Melly had no apparent motive for the crime.
YNW Melly had his breakout in 2017 and went on to work with Kanye West on “Mixed Personalities,” which was released in January 2019, a month before Demons, 24, was arrested on murder charges.