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Ruling in Rapper’s Trial Is Appealed

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Prosecutors in the Snoop Doggy Dogg murder trial Tuesday filed an appeal of a Superior Court judge’s decision to edit taped statements made to police by two defendants, contending that the action weakens their case by forcing them to rely on testimony from officers of the embattled Los Angeles Police Department.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Ed Nison said prosecutors are asking the California Court of Appeal to halt jury selection in the case until the dispute over the statements can be resolved.

Nison wants to use unedited, taped statements to discredit defendants Sean Abrams and McKinley Lee, the rapper’s former bodyguard, by showing that their accounts of the shooting differ with those of eyewitnesses.

Snoop Doggy Dogg, whose real name is Calvin Broadus, is accused of murder along with Lee and Abrams, a longtime friend of the rapper, in the Aug. 25, 1993, shooting death of Philip Woldemariam, 20, in a West Los Angeles park.

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Prosecutors believe that Lee pulled the trigger in what authorities contend was a drive-by shooting, with Broadus, 24, at the wheel of his Jeep. Defense attorneys contend that the shooting was in self-defense, while prosecutors maintain that it was the result of a gang-related dispute.

For more than a week, prosecutors have been fighting to have admitted into evidence several post-arrest taped statements in which Lee and Abrams try to explain their actions.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Paul Flynn has ruled that the statements must be edited so they do not prejudice jurors against all of the defendants. Prosecutors say that cutting the remarks would limit their ability to show discrepancies in the defendants’ accounts of the crime.

They also argue that if the statements are edited, they can no longer play the tapes for the jury and will have to rely on the testimony of Los Angeles police officers, whose conduct has been called into question by defense attorneys.

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“That puts us in the position of having to rely totally on the credibility of police, and not the voice-taped statements of the defendants,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Bobby Grace told the judge at a hearing in his chambers last week. “Our case is basically going to be gutted and shunted to the side if we have to proceed in this manner.”

Later in the hearing, Nison argued that playing the tape would counter any potential questions of the credibility of the Police Department. In the Broadus case the department accidentally destroyed evidence, including gun casings and the victim’s bloody clothing.

Nison said last week in the closed-door hearing that if the appeals panel does not rule for the prosecution, he could be forced to drop charges against Abrams and Broadus. On Tuesday, however, Nison said, “The chance of dismissals against both defendants is remote.”


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