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Rapper YNW Melly murder trial opening statements set for Monday


YNW Melly (Broward County Sheriff’s Office)

The murder trial for up-and-coming rapper YNW Melly is set to begin on Monday after a jury of 12 was finalized this week.

Melly, whose legal name is Jamell Demons, faces two counts of murder for the 2018 shooting deaths of his group members Chris Thomas, 20, who was known as YNW Juvy, and Anthony Williams, 21, whose stage name was YNW Sakchaser.

A fourth member, Cortlen Henry known as YNW Bortlen, also faces murder charges. Police said Bortlen was driving the night of the murders and claimed they were the victims of a drive-by shooting. Bortlen will be tried separately.

Last week, a judge ruled in favor of the state after they filed a motion that would allow a death sentence if a jury voted 8-4 in favor of the death penalty. The new law was created after the Parkland school shooter, Nikolas Cruz, avoided the death penalty due to a split jury.

The Law&Crime Network plans to stream YNW Melly’s murder trial live once opening statements begin.

Kodak Black and YNW Melly attend CAA Grammy Party at Beauty & Essex in Hollywood, CA on Saturday, February 9, 2019 (Photo: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages) via AP Images

Night of deadly shooting

The murders unfolded on Oct. 26, 2018 after Melly, Bortlen, Juvy and Sakchaser left a recording session in an SUV.

Bortlen drove to a hospital and claimed the group had been targeted in a drive-by shooting. Juvy and Sakchaser had been shot to death. Following the murders, Melly posted on Twitter “They Took My Brothers From Me Over Jealousy I know y’all watching over me.” 

Months later in April 2019, Melly and Bortlen were charged with the premeditated murders of Juvy and Sakchaser. Both pleaded not guilty.

Bortlen’s trial has not yet been scheduled.

Melly’s trial has been delayed several times because of COVID and arguments over the death penalty and evidence. Melly was 19 at the time of the murders.

YNW Melly and Kodak Black attend CAA Grammy Party at Beauty & Essex in Hollywood, CA on Saturday, February 9, 2019 (Photo: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages) via AP Images

Jury selection in Melly’s case began in April. At the time, his mother appeared hopeful on social media.

Melly coming home. Today I went to court expecting more delays but we started jury selection. I can’t explain how I feel my anxiety is everywhere but God got us,” Jamie King wrote on Instagram.

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Angenette Levy is a correspondent and host for the Law&Crime Network. Angenette has worked in newsrooms in Green Bay, Wisconsin and Cincinnati, Ohio. She has covered a number of high-profile criminal cases in both state and federal courts throughout her career including the trials of Steven Avery, Brooke “Skylar” Richardson and most recently the trials of Kyle Rittenhouse and former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. She was nominated for an Emmy in 2015 for a story she covered in which she found a missing toddler who was the subject of an Amber Alert. Angenette is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati.