A Florida appeals court declared on Wednesday, November 9, that YNW Melly might face the death penalty if the murder charges against him are confirmed in an upcoming trial. This changes the judge's decision that prosecutors forfeited the right to seek capital punishment.
During the previous trial, Judge Andrew Siegel ruled that prosecutors could not seek the death penalty because they were unable to provide YNW Melly and his attorneys with a notice, which violated state rules. However, a ruling by Florida's District Court of Appeal declared on Wednesday that the judge's decision was incorrect, and prosecutors issued a notice that they might seek the death penalty after Melly was charged in 2019.
According to the ruling, YNW Melly might be sentenced to death if found guilty, and it won't happen until the Florida Supreme Court rules on the case since the recent ruling marked the problem as of public importance that must be decided by the state high court.
Melly's lawyer, Philip R. Horowitz, stated that he and his client were not happy with the ruling but they are waiting for a chance to defend their position before justice is delivered.
YNW Melly was charged with the murder of two friends
YNW Melly, whose legal name is Jamell Demons, was arrested in February 2019 on accusations of first-degree murder. According to police, Melly and another rapper, YNW Bortlen, killed two of their friends, YNW Sakchaser (Anthony Williams) and YNW Juvy (Christopher Thomas Jr), in 2018. The duo allegedly staged the crime scene in such a way that it seemed like a drive-by shooting.
Bortlen reportedly transported the victims to the hospital where they lost their lives, and Melly surrendered in February 2019. He announced on Instagram,
"No I did not get locked up in Washington , but I am turning myself in today… a couple months ago I lost my two brothers by violence and now the system want to find justice.. unfortunately a lot of rumors and lies are being said but no worries god is with me and my brother @ynw.bortlen and we want y'all to remember it's a ynw Family I love you - @ynwmelly"
The trial was planned for April but was canceled, after which YNW Melly's lawyers applied for a speedy trial demand, which could have started the case within 60 days. The trial was then set for July but had to be delayed because of a dispute over the death penalty.
According to YNW Melly's attorneys, the state failed to follow strict laws on how to warn the defendants that they would seek the death penalty. Judge Siegel joined Melly's attorneys in July and said that prosecutors forfeited the opportunity to seek death.
When prosecutors said that the ruling was incorrect, Judge Siegel accepted that his ruling responded to a legal question and halted the case until a state appeals court could rule on it. The District Court of Appeal sided with prosecutors on Wednesday and while writing to the appeals court, Judge Spencer D. Levine said,
"We find that the state compiled with its statutory obligations when it filed its notice of intent to seek the death penalty within 45 days of arraignment. The fact that the state filed a superseding indictment, requiring a second arraignment, does not vitiate the already filed and timely notice of intent. Notice is notice."
According to the ruling, the rules were made so that the defendants get the opportunity to prepare for a death penalty argument, and the prosecutors can live up to the requirements of the original notice. Judge Levine also said,
"Clearly, in the present case, the defendant was noticed and apprised of the state seeking the death penalty in 2019."
Levine went on to say that there is no evidence in the record to suggest that the defendant was prejudiced in any way and that the defendant has had three years to begin putting together his defense to the state seeking the death penalty.