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YNW Melly death penalty Florida

Source: @abennettphoto / Amy Beth Bennett

The stakes in the trial of YNW Melly have gotten grimmer as the judge has made it easier for jurors to give him the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.

Last Friday (June 2), Broward Circuit Judge John Murphy granted a motion brought by state prosecutors that asks the court to follow a new rule instituted in Florida that allows juries to recommend the death penalty with an 8-4 vote for the 24-year-old’s upcoming trial for first-degree murder. The previous requirement for a death sentence to be handed down was that it be a unanimous decision by all 12 jurors. Judge Murphy said afterward that the decision “was not fundamentally unfair for [Melly]… nor would it violate his right to due process of the law.”

The decision means that YNW Melly will be one of the first people in Florida to be tried under the new law, which was crafted after a jury granted the individual responsible for the deaths of 17 people in the 2018 Parkland mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The jury had voted 9-3 to give Cruz the death penalty but the judge couldn’t grant it since it wasn’t unanimous. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the law in April, making it the lowest threshold for death penalty convictions in the United States. Once a defendant in a capital case is found guilty by a unanimous jury, one juror should not be able to veto a capital sentence,” he said at the time.

The “Virtual (Blue Balenciagas)” rapper has been in the Broward County Jail for four years since his arrest in 2019 on two counts of first-degree murder. YNW Melly, also known as Jamell Demons, is accused of shooting to death his friends YNW Juvy (also known as Chris Thomas) and YNW SakChaser (also known as Anthony Williams) in October 2018 and having another friend, YNW Bortlen (also known as Cortlen Henry) take the bodies to a hospital and claim that they had been killed in a drive-by shooting.

Prosecutors had announced after the initial arrest that they would seek the death penalty for YNW Melly, with the support of the victims’ families. But in July 2022, they dropped their pursuit of the death penalty only to start advocating for it again four months later. The trial is slated to begin on June 20, after the completion of jury selection that recently concluded.