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YNW Melly double murder trial: Key takeaways from day 3

YNW Melly ponders something in court

YNW Melly ponders something in Broward County court on June 14, 2023. (Law&Crime Network)

The life of rapper YNW Melly is on the line in a double murder trial that, so far, has left many legal experts and court watchers mystified.

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 both murders.

A slow-bore expert

On Wednesday, after hours of painstakingly detailed testimony about identifying shell casings from Broward Sheriff’s Office Crime Lab manager Jorge Bello, it was unclear what either side truly gained from the firearms expert’s marathon-like testimony.

“Usually, if you’re going to bore a jury to tears with a dry expert witness, it’s gonna be because there’s a really salient point in there,” criminal defense attorney Jeffrey Wolf told the Law&Crime Network on Wednesday. “Because if you don’t have the gun, and you don’t know which gun it was, all they’re really going to do is be playing guesswork. And, in my experience, juries hate when experts play guesswork.”

A small implication may aid the defense

During cross-examination, Melly’s defense attorney Stewart Adelstein elicited laughter from the witness and the gallery by suggesting that Bello “hand out certificates” to everyone in court after his extensive lessons about firearms and bullets while on the stand.

Bello said that in the absence of the gun itself, which police have never recovered, he was unable to “conclusively” say what gun was used to create the projectiles and casings found at the crime scene – or if more than one gun was used. The upshot of that, however, may inure to the defense because it also means he was unable to directly link Melly to the gun used in the doubly fatal shooting.

More witnesses take the stand

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Senior Crime Laboratory Analyst James Marano also testified on Wednesday, largely establishing himself as an expert on glass and trace analysis.

After a lengthy break, Miramar Police Department crime scene supervisor Michael Kelly took the stand. His British Isles accent and habit of repeatedly talking over the prosecution likely earned him credits with the jury – or at least kept them all awake and entertained.

During direct examination, Kelly said he does not notate how often he changes his gloves – stressing he makes a notation at the end of his reports that he changes gloves frequently but answering in the negative when asked if he makes a note every time he changes them. The defense later sought to capitalize on this admission.

Odds and ends

The defendant twice appeared upset about something happening that didn’t have to do with the trial’s testimony.

Seems that @YNWMelly is agitated about something. He seemed to be staring someone down. His attorney then talked to him behind the binder, Melly was very animated with his hands. #YNWMellyTrial

After a long day the day before laying the foundation for entering evidence, prosecutors had several photographs formally admitted as exhibits in the case on Wednesday. One image showed Henry’s hands, seemingly clean and more or less perfect shape with no cuts or scrapes, taken immediately after the shooting.

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