YNW Melly Potentially Facing Death Penalty After Appeals Court Ruling

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YNW Melly Potentially Facing Death Penalty After Appeals Court Ruling

An appellate judge determined that prosecutors can seek the death penalty against the rapper if he’s convicted for first-degree murder. He also wants the state’s supreme court to weigh in.

YNW Melly

Jamell Demons aka YNW Melly, February 2019 (Jerritt Clark/Getty Images for 2wenty 2wenty Music)

A Florida appeals court judge has ruled that the state can seek the death penalty against YNW Melly, who is charged with two counts first-degree murder. Prosecutors had initially sought the death penalty against Melly not longer after the rapper’s arrest in 2019, but, earlier this year, a lower court judge ruled that Melly couldn’t face the death penalty because state prosecutors hadn’t properly notified him and his team. A new opinion from the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal sides with the prosecutors.

In the opinion, the judge writes that “the state complied with its statutory obligations when it filed its notice of intent to seek the death penalty within 45 days of arraignment.” He adds:

Clearly, in the present case, the defendant [YNW Melly] was noticed and apprised of the state seeking the death penalty in 2019. The defendant has had nearly three years to start the preparation of his defense to the state seeking the death penalty, between the filing of the original notice and the superseding indictment. The record contains no evidence that the defendant was prejudiced in any way by the state not filing a re-notice of its intent to seek the death penalty after the addition of the gang enhancement.

Notably, the judge concludes his opinion by suggesting that the Florida Supreme Court should rule on Melly’s case and the applicability of the death penalty. He writes:

In addition, we certify the following to the supreme court as a question of great public importance:

Whether the filing of a superseding indictment, which adds only a statutory sentencing enhancement, requires re-notice of an already timely filed notice of intent to seek the death penalty?

When reached by Pitchfork, Philip R. Horowitz, one of YNW Melly’s attorneys, wrote in an email: “While we are disappointed in the ruling, as you are aware, the appellate court certified a question of ‘great public importance’ to the Florida Supreme Court regarding our position that the death penalty should not apply in this case.  We look forward to our opportunity to argue our position before the justices.”

YNW Melly has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder charges. The musician’s trial has been delayed multiple times, and was most recently set to begin in July before being pushed back to determine the question of the death penalty.

Pitchfork has reached out to attorneys for YNW Melly for additional comment and information.

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