After 1 Witness, Defense Rests in Trial of Rapper
In a surprise move, the defense in the Snoop Doggy Dogg murder trial rested its case Tuesday after calling only one witness.
“The reason is simple,” defense attorney Donald Re told reporters outside court. "[Prosecutors] don’t have a case and we saw no reason to prolong this agony.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Paul G. Flynn adjourned in the early afternoon Tuesday and ordered the jury back at 1:30 p.m. today in an effort to give the district attorney’s office time to prepare its next move.
After listening to nearly two months of sometimes tedious testimony, many of the panel members greeted the news with smiles.
Outside court, co-prosecutors Bobby Grace and Ed Nison took issue with the defense’s claim that they had failed to prove their case against the rapper, whose real name is Calvin Broadus, and his bodyguard, McKinley Lee.
Prosecutors say they believe it is clear that Philip Woldemariam was executed--shot in the lower left back and buttocks--after he tried to run from a confrontation with Broadus and Lee at a Palms park in August 1993.
“If we didn’t believe there was evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, our obligation would be to go in there tomorrow and dismiss the case,” Nison said.
Grace added: “From a legal standpoint, [resting early] might put them in a precarious position.”
The defense, however, argues that the evidence shows that Lee shot Woldemariam in self-defense after Woldemariam pulled a gun on the rapper and his bodyguard. They cite the testimony of one of Woldemariam’s friends, who witnessed the shooting, to support their position.
Both Broadus, who was at the wheel of his black Jeep Cherokee at the time of the incident, and Lee, who was a passenger, have been charged with murder and conspiracy to commit assault. Broadus also has been charged with being an accessory after the fact because prosecutors say he tried to hide the Jeep following the shooting. The two men remain free on bail.
“Any time you are dealing with a jury, it’s a gamble,” defense attorney David Kenner said of the decision to rest without calling about 15 witnesses to the stand, as they had planned. “Under these circumstances, it is the right thing to do.”
Two of Woldemariam’s friends--Jason London and Dushaun Joseph--testified under lengthy questioning by the defense that they took a gun from Woldemariam as he lay dying in an attempt to improve the chances that the rapper and his bodyguard would be convicted of murder.
Joseph also testified that he saw Woldemariam reach for his waistband, where he had tucked a gun, before he was shot. Joseph later said that he thought the defense had tricked him into giving some of his answers.
After the prosecution rested its case Monday, the defense asked Flynn to consider dismissing the charges against Broadus and Lee. Such motions routinely are made by defense attorneys--and are usually denied--after prosecutors complete their case.
As expected, Flynn denied the attorneys’ request out of the presence of the jury Tuesday morning. And with that, the defense called to the stand John Mojica, a mechanic who worked at an auto body shop along an alley near Woodbine Park.
Mojica told jurors that he was working on a friend’s car when he saw a black Chevrolet Blazer pull up and an African American man get out and walk slowly down the alley with a gun.
Defense attorneys said they called Mojica to rebut prosecution witnesses who testified that they saw Broadus’ black Jeep Cherokee pull into the alley, and Lee get out with a gun in his hand. The prosecution claims Lee, Broadus and at least one other man jumped into the rapper’s Jeep and pursued Woldemariam and his friends after an argument outside Broadus’ apartment.
Mojica told jurors that the man he saw with a gun had short hair, whereas Lee’s head was shaved clean. About 30 to 45 seconds after the Blazer pulled out of the alley, he heard gunshots coming from the park, he testified.
“Is there any doubt in your mind that the car you saw in the alley was a Chevy Blazer?” defense attorney Marcia Morrissey asked. “No doubt,” Mojica said.