Skip to main content

YNW Melly double murder trial: Key takeaways from day 2

YNW Melly appears in court on day two of his double murder trial.

YNW Melly appears in court on day two of his double murder trial in Broward County, Fla., on Tuesday, June 13, 2023.

Defense attorneys in rapper YNW Melly’s double murder trial attempted to keep the mother of one of the victims from testifying as proceedings drew to a close late Tuesday afternoon.

Melly, whose given name is Jamell Demons, is a 24-year-old 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, who was known as YNW Juvy, and Anthony Williams, 21, known as YNW Sakchaser. A co-defendant, Cortlen Henry, known as YNW Bortlen, is also accused of murder.

After hearing from several witnesses, jurors in Broward County, Florida, were ushered away as the state and the defense argued over case law on who can identify dead individuals.

The state wants Thomas’ mother to identify him. The defense objected on the basis that the dead man’s mother’s potential testimony would likely have an undue impact on the jury.

The state countered and said they didn’t have anyone else who could identify Thomas who were not members of law enforcement. The defense said that was not a credible position by the state.

“We strenuously object to this process being engaged in,” defense attorney David A. Howard said. “In dereliction, or in violation of the case law. Not a case. Many cases.”

In the end, John J. Murphy III decided to table the matter and reserve ruling on the issue until consulting case law further.

A slow and steady evidentiary drip

On Monday, jurors were shown footage of Melly, Bortlen, and the two men they allegedly murdered leaving the recording studio in Fort Lauderdale before the deadly shooting. On Tuesday, jurors were shown several additional minutes of surveillance footage from inside and outside the recording studio.

After a morning break, 65 photographs were admitted into evidence that Kristopher Carter, a crime scene investigator, took. The photos were mainly of a blue Jeep Compass – the vehicle the state claims Melly and Bortlen used to stage a drive-by shooting after the fatal violence.

An additional 21 photos were admitted – including one of a bright yellow jacket with red blood stains. Carter remained on direct examination after lunch, and the state introduced several swabs taken by the crime scene investigator.


Melly’s defense began cross-examination of Carter regarding the 14 items collected from inside the car and secured a series of admissions from the state’s witness.

Carter answered in the affirmative when asked if law enforcement is basically looking for DNA or fingerprints – because no one has the same DNA or fingerprints – to see who, if anyone, touched what. Carter also freely admitted that he processed the car the same day as the homicides – specifically arriving at 2:57 p.m. and leaving at 9:31 p.m. on the day in question.

Carter went on to say that throughout processing the contents of the Jeep, he used quite a few pairs of gloves. He said he considered his work a thorough search of the Jeep from the front to the back. The crime scene investigator added that he was unaware of any other officers, detectives, or crime scene investigators going back to the vehicle and searching it again after he finished.

Latent fingerprints

A bit of back-and-forth occurred between Melly’s defense team and Carter about the visibility of latent fingerprints and whether they are visible “to the naked eye.” Carter says you can see them with a blue light – the defense aimed to make the point that such a visual aid means they are not visible with the naked eye.

Carter went on to note that he does not personally compare the fingerprints himself. The defense’s time with the witness ended with him describing a photograph of a detective reading an arrest warrant to the CSI personnel regarding the Jeep.

On re-direct, Carter discussed latent fingerprints with the prosecution, how to pick and choose what to swab for DNA, and testified that he did not review surveillance footage before swabbing for DNA or doing any of his investigatory work inside or on the Jeep.

Another member of the Miramar CSI

Carte previously testified that another crime scene technician was also there processing the Jeep with him – who stayed about the same amount of time – and that combined, the two spent roughly 14 hours working on the car.

That second investigator, Tara Carrol, briefly discussed various items found in the car, including an empty tea bottle, a crumpled and empty water bottle, a small bottle of Sutter Home wine, gold teeth, a cell phone, shoes, spent bullets, and a small canister of marijuana – which was initially described as a “green, leafy substance.”

The defense chimed in to stipulate the green leafy substance was, in fact, marijuana. But a defense attorney for the rapper clarified they were not stipulating to its introduction into evidence and would, rather, object to its relevance grounds. The state accepted the stipulation, and the court notified the jury about the drug.

More cross

On cross-examination, Carrol answered in the affirmative when asked by the defense if there is a “small” risk of cross-contamination when you don’t change your latex gloves between items that are picked up. The defense elicited this admission in line with an admission from Carrol that she could not remember if she switched her gloves out between picking up various bottles. The investigator said, however, that she definitely switched her gloves any time she moved from one part of the Jeep to another.

When she picked up various pieces of glass, Carrol said, she put gardening gloves on over her latex gloves, admitting she was not interested in “maintaining the sterility” of the glass because the glass wasn’t being tested for DNA. She said she did this to protect her hands from potential cuts.

On re-direct, Carrol told the state that she swabbed 15 different items, in total, from the Jeep on the day of the killings; she swabbed five additional items at a later date – also from the Jeep. She also said that she changed her gloves between every DNA swab.

“The lab only allows us to do 10 at a time,” Carrol said when asked by the defense why not every swabbed item was actually submitted for DNA testing. “Possibly, we can do another round of 10.”

After the first 10 swabs, and maybe 10 more, Carrol said, investigators can request more such testing from the DNA manager. These limitations, she said, are a relatively recent change due to economics.

Join the discussion 

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime: