Defense attorneys for YNW Melly requested a mistrial late Thursday afternoon following a dramatic series of inappropriate questions directed at a witness – and direct testimony – by the prosecution in as part of the rapper’s double murder trial.
The state’s second witness on Thursday was Felicia Holmes, the mother of the defendant’s ex-girlfriend, Mariah Hamilton. Fireworks frequently appeared when she spoke — a marked departure from Wednesday’s relatively tame and technical testimony.
Largely at issue was a December 2018 statement Holmes allegedly made to Florida law enforcement about a FaceTime call between Melly and her daughter, Mariah Hamilton, which the state says occurred. immediately after the shooting.
The substance of this statement, insofar as the state showed its hand, concerned: the key moments of the shooting; Melly’s phone number at the time of the shooting; Hamilton’s phone number at the time, if Melly could have used another phone to call his girlfriend that morning; what Melly says she saw just before the gunshots swept through the still Florida air; and his fear that a gunman might be hiding in the bushes after the violence that claimed the lives of his two friends.
Holmes, however, gave a sworn deposition in December 2022 that differs on key details from the 2018 police statement. She also said she did not clearly recall what she said to police in 2018.
Before the witness was called, and outside of the presence of jurors, the defense warned the court that the state was not really interested in Holmes’ testimony, but rather, in “dishonestly” using the “pretext” that Holmes forgot what she told police about the immediate aftermath of the killings to try to remove her from the stand using her 2018 statement to law enforcement.
The state’s end goal, lead defense attorney David A. Howard pointed out in court, was to get the entire original statement before the jury — and that goes against the case law. a long time in Florida.
“This body of law wouldn’t exist” if this sort of thing was allowed, Howard said, referring to several cases on the subject provided to the court. The defense said Holmes would have remembered receiving a call about a murder – but made it clear, they now diverge from that statement in a number of ways.
“It’s a pretense, it’s in bad faith, it’s inappropriate and it shouldn’t be allowed,” Howard said. “It’s basically hearsay.”
Ultimately, the judge allowed the state to call Hamilton and initially deferred any real decision on the extent or limitation of Holmes’ testimony about his 2018 statement. By refusing to rule definitively, the State effectively won that battle — and continued to repeatedly try to get Holmes to testify about that statement.
These efforts prompted the defense to raise an objection, and the jury was sent out for a long lunch.
The judge ultimately ruled in favor of the defense. Thus, the state argued that the judge misapplied the case law. The judge then, after another lengthy review of the case law, slightly reversed his decision but generally indicated that if the witness continued to testify as she was – by not recalling the accuracy of her 2018 statement or by definitively saying one way or another if his previous statement was accurate – the court would not allow the previous statement.
When the jurors returned, the interrogations were often tense. Eventually, the state asked to treat Holmes as a hostile witness – with lead prosecutor Kristine Bradley recommending that Holmes talk to his attorney. The defense and attorney for Holmes complained that the state was intimidating the witness and that this was untoward. This back and forth led the court to send the jury on vacation again.
Judge John Murphy III initially blamed the state for the hostility claim. Murphy said Holmes answered all of the state’s questions — but not in the way the state wanted. The judge was also clearly frustrated with the state’s repetitive line of questioning.
“I don’t know where we’re coming from,” Judge said.
The court reread two cases used to generally support the defense’s objection to the introduction of Holmes’ 2018 police statement and said that in two separate scenarios described by the case law, the statement would not be allowed.
Also without jurors present, the judge finally allowed the state to treat Holmes as hostile, asking leading questions as she clearly doesn’t want to be there and wears an ankle monitor – but with strict caveats.
The court then reread the same two cases used to generally support the defense’s objection to the introduction of Holmes’ 2018 police statement and said that in two separate scenarios described by the case law, the statement would not be authorized.
“I do not want the contents of this statement to be regurgitated in the form of leading questions,” Judge said.
Formally deemed hostile, Bradley repeatedly posed the same questions to Holmes, prompting numerous objections. The defense and the court requested several boxes as the state continued its questioning of the witness. The court repeatedly ruled in favor of the defense; after previously limiting what the state could ask — and how the state could ask — Holmes about his 2018 statement to law enforcement.
Time and time again, Holmes said she didn’t remember that statement – but the state kept referring to the statement and asking the witness if she was lying then, on the stand, or if she had habit of lying to the police. Bradley insisted on many of the defense’s sustained objections in this way.
Several defense objections, in other areas, were overruled – ultimately leading the state to a series of questions clearly intended to suggest that Holmes was being paid by the defense.
“You never made a statement that you were told to quit your job and the defense would ‘take care of us?'” Bradley asked.
“Defense?” Holmes asked, puzzled, and said, “No.”
The defense again objected and another sidebar was called. After that, the judge ordered the jury to disregard the question – saying ‘the way it was worded was totally inappropriate’ and supporting the defense’s objection.
The state moved on to another line of questioning about Holmes’ daughter’s recollection of the events, whether they threatened to cooperate with law enforcement, and various other events. This led to another round of objections raised by the defense and supported by the court.
At one point, near the end of her testimony, Holmes was questioned about the state’s efforts to obtain her testimony and the validity of previously issued subpoenas. In response to a question, the witness said his lawyer had to hire a lawyer to appeal “because you tried to get him disbarred”.
In response, Bradley testified directly in the case, which is not allowed, saying, “That’s a misrepresentation.”
The defense quickly jumped up and protested loudly, and the court ruled in favor of the defense saying, “Counsellor, you are not testifying.”
Holmes left the stand soon after, and the jurors were excused early.
The court then considered the requests for a mistrial.
“As sure as I could predict Tuesday comes after Monday – I made sure to stay up until 2 a.m. last night – to get these cases, to alert the court to the obvious state intent: to put a witness there for the purpose of introducing out-of-court statements that are otherwise inadmissible,” defense attorney Howard said. “Instead of at least admitting that was what the state had the intention to do, he advanced a ruse, a pretext, that they sought to do it under [a certain rule of evidence]actually [particular rule of evidence] given the testimony of the witness, could not be employed. And, so, the state then reverted to plan one – the original all along – of the state reading evidence from written records of out-of-court statements, including police reports; statements on Instagram; arguments were filed, in the record, by the very mouth of the state, knowing full well that it was inappropriate, that the court had decided that it should not and could not be done.
Howard accused Bradley of feigning surprise at Holmes’ testimony in a court statement, calling the state’s alleged surprise an “uncredible statement” and suggesting the court investigate “to discern the veracity of this claim. “.
The defense said the state repeatedly attempted to “circumvent” court rules and orders and presented several pieces of evidence that it was not permitted to present “to the substantial prejudice” of the defendant.
“Mr. Demons suffered bias,” Howard continued. “That jury sat there and watched this fiasco unfold with at least 10, maybe 15, sidebars after every two questions… All founded on the implications and the inadmissible testimony that Mrs. Bradley, herself, read and spoke in the record. And for that reason, we believe it was deliberate. It is very prejudicial. This jury has been tainted and we propose a mistrial.
Next, defense attorney Stuart Adelstein addressed a second basis for the defense’s mistrial motion.
“In my entire career, I have never heard the state suggest without any evidence that the defense team would ‘deal with’ this witness,” attorney Adelstein said. “And even though the court gave that instruction and told them to ignore it. This question: “the defense team would take care of you if you were answered like that” is so inappropriate that it not only taints our client on the other questions, but it taints everyone around this table. But despite the judge’s instructions – Your Honor – to ignore it, it’s pretty hard to ignore something like that.
“We are asking for a mistrial,” Adelstein added.
Bradley, in response, said she was not referring to the defense team when she said “the defense”, but to the defendant himself. She said she was basing her questions on the “they” referenced in statements allegedly made by the witness on her Instagram account.
“It doesn’t mean anything, your honor,” Howard said in response to the prosecutor’s explanation. “Mr. The interests of the demons have been irreparably harmed before this jury.
The judge said he would defer ruling on the motions to quash until next Tuesday.
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