Death Penalty Removed from Florida Rapper’s Case

July 15, 2022 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Violent Crimes

Jamell Demons, also known as popular Florida rapper YNW Melly, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder over a shooting that took place in 2018. We mentioned Demons in a previous article about upcoming death penalty cases in Broward County. Now the rapper is back in the news, this time because a judge ruled that he will no longer face the death penalty.

There was apparently an issue with the State failing to notice Demons and his legal team about the capital punishment, however, the prosecution disagrees. We will cover the case along and its details.

What was the Case?

On October 26th, 2018, Christopher Thomas Jr., 19, and Anthony Williams, 21, were both shot and killed. The two belonged to the same group as YNW Melly, going by the nicknames YNW Juvy and YNW Sakchaser. According to the authorities, the two were last seen in Fort Lauderdale at 3:20am.

Around 4:35am, they arrived at the hospital with multiple gunshot wounds, and were pronounced dead upon arrival. After their deaths Demons posted on social media, “They took my brothers from me over jealousy…[the killers] want to see me break down and stop or in a jail or box.”  

Demons went on to continue pursuing music over the next year, and talk about the unfortunate drive-by shooting that resulted in the deaths of his two “brothers.” It wasn’t until February 13th, 2019 that Demons was arrested and accused of both murders against Thomas Jr. and Williams. Police believe that Demons shot and killed the two men and then had Cortlen Henry, aka YNW Bortlen, help him stage the crime scene as a drive-by shooting.

Demons shared a post on Instagram (that is now deleted) after his arrest that said, “Unfortunately, a lot of rumors and lies are being said but no worries God is with me.” On February 25th, 2019, police released public court documents for Demons’ case. The police also searched his phone records, which supposedly placed Demons at the scene of the crime. Based on autopsy reports and details from the crime scene, police argued that the drive-by bullet holes were strategically staged on the outside of the car to misdirect an investigation.

In March, Demons pled not guilty to the double murder. Then in April, the prosecution filed paperwork to indicate that they were seeking the death penalty against rapper YNW Melly. Most recently, Florida judge Andrew Siegel announced that the death penalty could not be sought after for Demons. The reason is because the state failed to give proper notice of the intent of the death penalty sentence to Demons or his attorney.

The statement from Judge Siegel regarding the failure and how it was not a basic paperwork technicality:

“The State’s discretion to seek the death penalty does not absolve it of its duty to strictly comply with the notice requirements. To permit the State to seek the death penalty when it has not complied with the 45-day notice requirement would run clearly counter to the requirements of the rule and the intent of the Florida Supreme Court.”

The prosecution argued on July 8th that there were legal flaws in the judge’s decision to block the death penalty. The attorney general’s office has indicated that it plans on going to the appeals court to attempt to overturn the decision. In their argument, the prosecution claimed that Judge Siegel should pause the case if he won’t reconsider his decision. That way there is time for the appeals court to fully review the case. This would also go against the “speedy trial” that Demons’ team requested, which would force a trial by this month.

During Monday’s court proceedings on July 11th, Judge Siegel denied the motion to reconsider his decision regarding the death penalty. However, he has not yet said anything in regards to delaying the trial further. As of now, the jury selection for the trial would begin this week.

In the motion written by the prosecution, they stated: “It is clear that the filing of a superseding indictment did not begin a new case, and that is the same criminal episode.”

You can read the full motion from the prosecution here.

Florida’s Notice for Capital Punishment

In order for the prosecution to seek the death penalty in a criminal case in Florida, they must provide a 45-day notice after arraignment. Within the notice, there must be a detailed list of the aggravating factors that the state believes can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

For Demons’ case, the notice was originally filed by the state attorney when the rapper was indicted back in 2019. However, they failed to do so when a so-called superseding indictment happened earlier this year. The defense team argued that the state would have to file another notice of intent and they failed to do so. According to Broward County Clerk of Court Records, Demons’ arraignment was on March 5, 2019, and the state filed their notice to seek the death penalty on April 18, 2019, the notice on the prior indictment was before the 45-day deadline. However, the state indicted Demons’ again through a grand jury panel. The new indictment contained additional language that was not in the first indictment. The state did not file an additional notice to seek the death penalty after obtaining the second indictment. 

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime, it is in your best interest to reach out to a skilled criminal defense and violent crime attorney in your area. A criminal conviction can lead to serious consequences, including expensive fines, jail time, and the stigma of having a conviction on your permanent record. In the most extreme cases such as the one listed above, it could even result in capital punishment. Working with an experienced attorney can help you build a strong defense for your case. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience representing clients all across Florida for various crimes. We vow to stand in your corner and fight for your freedom. For a free consultation call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message today.

Written by Karissa Key

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