The jury in the trial of three men accused of murdering rising rap star XXXTentacion during a 2018 robbery finished a sixth day of deliberations Wednesday without reaching a verdict, asking the judge questions that indicate they are methodically going through the evidence.
The seven women and five men asked Circuit Judge Michael Usan a technical question about viewing videos of the men flashing fistfuls of $100 (Dh367.2) bills hours after the June 18, 2018, shooting and robbery that netted $50,000 (Dh183,639.9) and whether they could open an envelope and look at a collection of fingerprints. They could. They have deliberated more than 20 hours since getting the case March 8. Deliberations will resume Thursday.
Michael Boatwright, 28 and the accused shooter; Dedrick Williams, 26 and the accused ringleader and getaway driver; and Trayvon Newsome, 24 and the alleged second gunman, are charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery. They face mandatory life sentences if convicted. Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty.
During the monthlong trial, prosecutors tried to link the men to the shooting outside Riva Motorsports in suburban Fort Lauderdale through extensive surveillance video taken inside and outside the store, plus the cellphone videos they took of them flashing $100 (Dh367.2) bills.
Prosecutors also had the testimony of a fourth man, Robert Allen, a former friend of the defendants who said he participated in the robbery. He pleaded guilty last year to second-degree murder. He has not been sentenced pending the conclusion of this trial. He could get anywhere between time served, meaning he could soon be released, and life, depending partly on how prosecutors perceive his assistance.
Twice this week, the jury asked to review text messages from Boatwright, the accused shooter, from the day of the shooting. A printout from prosecutors shows that from the time he woke up about 10.30am until 3pm, about an hour before the shooting, he sent 17 to various people, including one about getting a car. Prosecutors say the SUV used in the shooting was rented from a woman through a phone app. He then stopped texting for about two hours.
About an hour after the shooting, he sent a text saying, “Tell my brother I got the money for the new phone.” Minutes after that, he sent someone a screenshot of a news story saying XXXTentacion had been shot.
Defense attorneys accused Allen of being a liar trying to avoid a life sentence. They also said prosecutors and detectives did a poor investigation that didn’t look at other possible suspects, including the Canadian rap star Drake — he and XXXTentacion had an online feud.
XXXTentacion, whose real name was Jahseh Onfroy, had just left Riva Motorsports with a friend when his BMW was blocked by an SUV that swerved in front.
Surveillance video showed two masked gunmen emerged and confronted the 20-year-old artist at the driver’s window, and one shot him repeatedly. They then grabbed a Louis Vuitton bag containing cash XXXTentacion had just withdrawn from the bank, got back into the SUV and sped away. The friend was not harmed.
Allen testified that the men set out that day to commit robberies and went to the motorcycle shop to buy Williams a mask. There they spotted the rapper and decided to make him their target. Allen and Williams went inside the shop to confirm it was him. They then went back to the SUV, waited for XXXTentacion to emerge and ambushed him, according to testimony.
The rapper, who pronounced his name “Ex ex ex ten-ta-see-YAWN,” was a platinum-selling rising star who tackled issues including prejudice and depression in his songs. He also drew criticism over bad behavior and multiple arrests, including charges that he severely beat and abused his girlfriend.