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The judge overseeing the retrial of Jamell “YNW Melly” Demons reset the start date to give prosecutors and defense lawyers time to bring themselves up to speed on a case that has changed significantly in the months since his first trial ended in a hung jury.
Jury selection in the case is ongoing and is expected to last through December, but instead of holding opening statements in January as originally scheduled, Broward Circuit Judge John J. Murphy set them for Feb. 5.
Prosecutors requested the three-week extension to give its new team an opportunity to immerse itself in the case. Last month, the judge removed Kristine Bradley, the lead prosecutor, over allegations related to the execution of a search warrant on Demons’ mother, Jamie King.
Bradley was replaced by Alixandra Buckelew, one of the prosecutors who handled the case against the four men convicted of the 2018 murder of rapper XXXTentacion, whose real name was Jahseh Onfroy.
Prosecutors also need time to factor in allegations of witness tampering that came to light during and after the Demons’ first trial.
Defense lawyers also benefit from the extension of the trial date. Prosecutors added expert witnesses whose findings need to be reviewed and challenged, and defense lawyers are preparing a new line of cross-examination against prosecution witness Mark Moretti, the detective who spearheaded the investigation that led to the charges against Demons.
“Based on the sheer amount of outstanding motions, hearings and discovery, the court is concerned that neither side is ready to proceed beyond jury selection,” Murphy wrote in a ruling released Wednesday.
Demons is accused of first-degree murder in the 2018 shooting deaths of fellow rappers Christopher “YNW Juvy” Thomas and Anthony “YNW Sakchaser” Williams after a late-night recording session in Fort Lauderdale. Jurors in the first trial heard Moretti explain why investigators believe Demons and driver Cortlen “YNW Bortlen” Henry staged the crime scene to look like a drive-by shooting had taken place well after Demons shot his former friends.
Defense lawyers concede that Demons had been in the Jeep driven by Henry shortly before the Miramar shooting but deny that he was there when it took place. Henry has been charged with murder as well and will be tried separately.
Rafael Olmeda can be reached at email@example.com or 954-356-4457.