FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — An appeals court has cleared the way for prosecutors to seek the death penalty against the rapper professionally known as YNW Melly, putting the murder case back on track to be presented to a jury.
The trial of Jamell Demons, Melly’s legal name, was set to begin in July, but Broward Circuit Judge Andrew Siegel sided with the defense by ruling prosecutors could not seek the death penalty because they had failed to properly inform the court of that intention.
In a ruling this week, the Fourth District Court of Appeal found that prosecutors acted properly, had already notified the court about the intention to seek death, and was not required to repeat the notification just because a new indictment had been handed up against the defendant .
“Nowhere does the statute or rule require the state, after a superseding indictment, to file an additional notification to the defendant that the state is seeking the death penalty,” the appellate court wrote in its decision. “The state complied with the statute, and rule, requiring notice within 45 days of arraignment.”
Demons, 23, was initially indicted in 2019 and charged with the murders of Anthony Williams, known as YNW Sakchaser, and Christopher Thomas Jr., known as YNW Juvy. All had been at a recording session in Fort Lauderdale on Oct. 26, 2018. Prosecutors say the shooting took place while the men were riding in Miramar, with Demons pulling the trigger and another man, Cortlen Henry, driving.
Prosecutors say Demons tried to make the shooting look like a drive-by, with Henry reporting it to the police. But the evidence did not match Henry’s account, according to investigators.
Henry will be tried separately.
Prosecutors, as required by law, filed an official notice of intent to seek the death penalty against Demons within 45 days of his indictment.
Earlier this year, a superseding indictment was issued, adding as a possible aggravating factor that the crime was committed with the “purpose of benefitting, promoting or furthering the interest of a criminal gang.”
Prosecutors did not renew its motion to seek the death penalty after the later indictment, leading to the legal dispute the appeals court just resolved.
The next court date has not been set.