UPDATE: Court Now Sides with Prosecutors in YNW Melly’s case; the Death Penalty is Back on the Table for him KossyDerrickBlog KossyDerrickEnt

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Friday, November 11, 2022

UPDATE: Court Now Sides with Prosecutors in YNW Melly’s case; the Death Penalty is Back on the Table for him

UPDATE: Court Now Sides with Prosecutors in YNW Melly’s case. The Death Penalty is Back on the Table for him. 

A Florida appeals court judge has ruled that the state can seek the death penalty against YNW Melly, who is charged with two counts first-degree murder. Prosecutors had initially sought the death penalty against Melly not longer after the rapper’s arrest in 2019, but, earlier this year, a lower court judge ruled that Melly couldn’t face the death penalty because state prosecutors hadn’t properly notified him and his team. A new opinion from the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal sides with the prosecutors.

In the opinion, the judge writes that “the state complied with its statutory obligations when it filed its notice of intent to seek the death penalty within 45 days of arraignment.” He adds:

Clearly, in the present case, the defendant [YNW Melly] was noticed and apprised of the state seeking the death penalty in 2019. The defendant has had nearly three years to start the preparation of his defense to the state seeking the death penalty, between the filing of the original notice and the superseding indictment. The record contains no evidence that the defendant was prejudiced in any way by the state not filing a re-notice of its intent to seek the death penalty after the addition of the gang enhancement.

Notably, the judge concludes his opinion by suggesting that the Florida Supreme Court should rule on Melly’s case and the applicability of the death penalty. He writes:

In addition, we certify the following to the supreme court as a question of great public importance:

Whether the filing of a superseding indictment, which adds only a statutory sentencing enhancement, requires re-notice of an already timely filed notice of intent to seek the death penalty?

When reached by Pitchfork, Philip R. Horowitz, one of YNW Melly’s attorneys, wrote in an email: “While we are disappointed in the ruling, as you are aware, the appellate court certified a question of ‘great public importance’ to the Florida Supreme Court regarding our position that the death penalty should not apply in this case. We look forward to our opportunity to argue our position before the justices.”

YNW Melly has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder charges. The musician’s trial has been delayed multiple times, and was most recently set to begin in July before being pushed back to determine the question of the death penalty.

Pitchfork has reached out to attorneys for YNW Melly for additional comment and information.

Siegel concluded his opinion, however, by compelling Florida’s Supreme Court to reassess the applicability of the death penalty in Demons’ case when the trial resumes. “In addition,” he wrote, “we certify the following to the supreme court as a question of great public importance: Whether the filing of a superseding indictment, which adds only a statutory sentencing enhancement, requires re-notice of an already timely filed notice of intent to seek the death penalty?”

In a statement to Pitchfork, Demons’ attorney, Phillip R. Horrowitz, expressed optimism about his client’s case, despite today’s news. “While we are disappointed in the ruling, as you are aware, the appellate court certified a question of ‘great public importance’ to the Florida Supreme Court regarding our position that the death penalty should not apply in this case,” he wrote in an email. “We look forward to our opportunity to argue our position before the justices.”

Per Billboard, Florida’s District Court of Appeal has overruled Judge Andrew Siegel’s decision to forbid prosecutors from seeking the death penalty. Siegel made the ruling in July, and said prosecutors had violated state rules when they failed to give Melly and his attorneys the appropriate notice they planned to seek capital punishment. Florida’s District Court of Appeal, however, said prosecutors complied with state rules because they gave notice when they charged Melly in 2019.

If convicted in his upcoming trial, Melly could be sentenced to death. The decision won’t be reached until the Florida Supreme Court rules on the case. “Notice is notice,” the court wrote in the ruling. 

“We find that the state complied with its statutory obligations when it filed its notice of intent to seek the death penalty within 45 days of arraignment,” wrote Judge Spencer D. Levine. "The fact that the state filed a superseding indictment, requiring a second arraignment, does not vitiate the already filed and timely notice of intent. ... The defendant has had nearly three years to start the preparation of his defense to the state seeking the death penalty [and] the record contains no evidence that the defendant was prejudiced in any way.”

When reached for comment, the Broward State Attorney’s Office told Complex they do not comment on pending cases. In a response shared with Billboard, Melly’s attorney Philip R. Horowitz said he and his client were “disappointed in the ruling,” although they “look forward to our opportunity to argue our position before the justices.”

Earlier this year, Melly’s legal team argued that the state failed to comply with laws on warning defendants they’ll be seeking the death penalty. Florida law requires prosecutors to give notice within 45 days after arraignment, and the state attorney filed the notice when he was indicted for two counts of premeditated first-degree murder in 2019. Prosecutors did fail to file the notice when a superseding indictment was handed down this year, however.

In February 2019, Melly and his associated Cortlen “YNW Bortlen” Henry were arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder each. The two have been accused of fatally shooting their friends, 20-year-old Christopher “YNW Juvy” Thomas Jr. and 21-year-old Anthony “YNW Sakchaser” Williams, in October 2018. Melly and Bortlen allegedly killed the victims inside a vehicle, and then attempted to stage the crime to look like a drive-by shooting.

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