Rapper YNW Melly could be facing the death penalty if convicted after a Florida Appeals court ruled a judge’s decision in his murder case was incorrect.
Per Billboard, Florida’s District Court of Appeal has overruled Judge Andrew Siegel’s decision to forbid prosecutors from seeking the death penalty. Siegel made the ruling in July, and said prosecutors had violated state rules when they failed to give Melly and his attorneys the appropriate notice they planned to seek capital punishment. Florida’s District Court of Appeal, however, said prosecutors complied with state rules because they gave notice when they charged Melly in 2019.
If convicted in his upcoming trial, Melly could be sentenced to death. The decision won’t be reached until the Florida Supreme Court rules on the case. “Notice is notice,” the court wrote in the ruling.
“We find that the state complied with its statutory obligations when it filed its notice of intent to seek the death penalty within 45 days of arraignment,” wrote Judge Spencer D. Levine. "The fact that the state filed a superseding indictment, requiring a second arraignment, does not vitiate the already filed and timely notice of intent. ... The defendant has had nearly three years to start the preparation of his defense to the state seeking the death penalty [and] the record contains no evidence that the defendant was prejudiced in any way.”
When reached for comment, the Broward State Attorney’s Office told Complex they do not comment on pending cases. In a response shared with Billboard, Melly’s attorney Philip R. Horowitz said he and his client were “disappointed in the ruling,” although they “look forward to our opportunity to argue our position before the justices.”
Earlier this year, Melly’s legal team argued that the state failed to comply with laws on warning defendants they’ll be seeking the death penalty. Florida law requires prosecutors to give notice within 45 days after arraignment, and the state attorney filed the notice when he was indicted for two counts of premeditated first-degree murder in 2019. Prosecutors did fail to file the notice when a superseding indictment was handed down this year, however.
In February 2019, Melly and his associated Cortlen “YNW Bortlen” Henry were arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder each. The two have been accused of fatally shooting their friends, 20-year-old Christopher “YNW Juvy” Thomas Jr. and 21-year-old Anthony “YNW Sakchaser” Williams, in October 2018. Melly and Bortlen allegedly killed the victims inside a vehicle, and then attempted to stage the crime to look like a drive-by shooting.
Sign up for the Complex Newsletter for breaking news, events, and unique stories.