Jurors found a 32-year-old man guilty of first-degree murder Wednesday for the fatal shooting of rapper Nipsey Hussle in 2019.
The Los Angeles County jury also found Eric R. Holder Jr. guilty of two counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter instead of two attempted murder counts as prosecutors had sought for two other men who were hit by gunfire in the shooting.
Holder, wearing a blue suit and face mask, stood up in the small court room next to his lawyer as the verdict was read. He had no visible reaction.
Jurors deliberated for about six hours over two days before reaching the verdict.
The verdict brings an end to a legal saga that has lasted more than three years and a trial that was often delayed because of the pandemic.
Evidence against shooter was overwhelming
Holder and Hussle had known each other for years — they grew up as members of the same South Los Angeles street gang — when a chance meeting outside the rapper’s Los Angeles clothing store led to the shooting, and his death.
The evidence against Holder was overwhelming, from eyewitnesses to surveillance cameras from local businesses that captured Holder’s arrival, the shooting and his departure.
His attorney did not even deny that Holder was the shooter but urged jurors to find him guilty of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.
The shooting followed a conversation the two men had about rumours that Holder had been acting as an informant for authorities.
Holder’s lawyer, Aaron Jansen, said that being publicly accused of being a “snitch” by a person as prominent as Hussle brought on a “heat of passion” in Holder that made him not guilty of first-degree murder.
“This is a provocation that stirs up rage and powerful emotion,” Jansen told jurors Thursday.
Deputy District Attorney John McKinney argued during the trial that Holder and everyone else in the conversation that preceded Hussle’s death were so calm that the “snitching” conversation could not have been the primary motive, and that Holder must have had some previous envy or hatred for Hussle.
McKinney told jurors that the nine minutes between the conversation and the shooting allowed more than enough time for the killing to be premeditated, a requirement for first-degree murder.
The jury apparently agreed.
Hussle, whose legal name is Ermias Asghedom, was 33 when he died. He had just released his major-label debut album that earned him his first Grammy nomination when he was gunned down.
He was a widely beloved figure in Los Angeles, especially in the South L.A. area where he grew up and remained after gaining fame, buying property and opening businesses.
“He wanted to change the neighbourhood,” McKinney said in his closing argument. “He kept the same friends. And the neighbourhood loved him. They called him Neighbourhood Nip.”
Hussle was mourned at a memorial at the arena then known as the Staples Center, and celebrated in a performance at the Grammy Awards that included D.J. Khaled and John Legend.