A Florida judge has ruled that the state can seek the death penalty against YNW Melly following first-degree murder charges.
Prosecutors first sought the death penalty against Jamell Demons, better known as YNW Melly, shortly after the rapper’s 2019 arrest. A lower court judge ruled that the death penalty could not be applied because state prosecutors did not officially notify Melly and his team. However, a new ruling from the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal has sided with the prosecutors.
“The state complied with its statutory obligations when it filed its notice of intent to seek the death penalty within 45 days of arraignment,” writes Judge Andrew L. Siegel. “Clearly, in the present case, the defendant 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.”
The judge concludes his ruling by suggesting that the Florida Supreme Court should rule on Melly’s case and the applicability of the death penalty.
“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?”
YNW Melly has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and the trial has been delayed multiple times — most recently to July before being pushed back to determine the applicability of the death penalty.
“While we are disappointed in the ruling, 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,” writes Philip R. Horowitz, one of YNW Melly’s attorneys, to Pitchfork. “We look forward to our opportunity to argue our position before the justices.”