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Judge rules against mistrial motion in YNW Melly double murder trial – defense lodges numerous new objections on day 5

YNW Melly raises his hand in Broward County court

YNW Melly raises his hand in a Broward County courtroom on June 20, 2023. (Law&Crime Network)

The judge overseeing rapper YNW Melly’s double murder trial in Florida ruled against a defense motion to declare a mistrial on Friday.

Defense attorney Stuart Adelstein told Law&Crime correspondent Terri Austin on Tuesday morning that attorneys were given the written order by Judge John Murphy III denying the mistrial on Friday. That order, however, has not been uploaded to the public docket on the Broward County court website as of this writing.

Melly, 24, is a member and co-founder of the YNW Collective, a popular group of hip-hop artists. He stands accused of two counts of murder for the 2018 shooting and killing of his friends and fellow collective members Chris Thomas, 20, known as YNW Juvy, and Anthony Williams, 21, known as YNW Sakchaser. A co-defendant being tried separately, Cortlen Henry, 24, known as YNW Bortlen, is also accused of both murders. Prosecutors allege that Melly and Bortlen conspired to kill the victims and then staged a drive-by shooting.

On Thursday, Murphy oversaw what the defense termed a “fiasco” in court: a lengthy and often dramatic series of improper questions directed toward a state witness – as well as testifying directly – care of lead prosecutor Kristine Bradley. The judge himself repeatedly upbraided the state’s attorney over her questioning of Felicia Holmes, the mother of Melly’s ex-girlfriend, and the state’s efforts to introduce testimony the court had previously ruled inadmissible.

The questioning of Holmes led to numerous objections from the defense — many of which were sustained, some of which were not. At one point, the court issued a curative instruction, calling the state’s line of questioning “totally improper” and telling the jury to disregard a question phrased in a way to suggest the defense had paid off the witness. In addition, Bradley was admonished by Judge Murphy for directly testifying during her questioning of Holmes.

Near the end of open court last week, and with jurors present, defense attorney David A. Howard moved for a mistrial. The defense argued two separate mistrial motions late Thursday afternoon outside of the presence of the jury – and the state briefly responded. The judge said he would take the motions under advisement, directed defense attorneys to discuss the matter with their client, and said he would defer dealing with the issue until Tuesday. But the court ultimately reached a conclusion well before then.

At the beginning of proceedings on Tuesday afternoon, Murphy put the court into recess for a delayed start because a juror was suffering from dehydration. Just before court was about to resume, the judge brought up a question from a juror to a bailiff inquiring about the status of the mistrial motion. The bailiff replied in a non-comital fashion, he said, and the juror was then brought in to discuss how she knew about the mistrial motion.

The juror, under questioning from the judge, replied in the affirmative when asked if she asked the bailiff about the status of the mistrial. She went on to say that she heard about the motion in court last week from a defense attorney. She also denied reading, seeing, or hearing about the mistrial motion in the media, otherwise researching the motion, or discussing the motion with any other jurors.

Ultimately, both the state and the defense agreed to have the juror continue to sit in judgment on the case.

Most of the day’s testimony on Thursday dealt with experts, as well as one member of law enforcement, discussing cellular phone technology.

Numerous sidebars and recesses were called throughout the day as the court, away from jurors’ eyes and ears, dealt with various objections to the introduction of specific pieces of evidence – specifically regarding the reliability of iPhone fitness data, extraction practices, and who actually owns the phone in question.

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