Nipsey Hussle murder trial begins with debate over whether killing was premeditated

·3 min read

The Nipsey Hussle murder trial began Wednesday, with the jury hearing opening statements.

Eric Holder has been charged with Hussle's death. He was indicted on one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

Holder faces up to life in prison, if convicted as charged. He has pleaded not guilty.

MORE: Suspect charged with murder of Grammy-nominated rapper Nipsey Hussle

The prosecution began by describing Hussle as a father, a son, comparing him in sharp contrast to Holder.

PHOTO: Eric Holder is seen here in an undated file photo. (Los Angeles Police Department/EPA via Shutterstock)
PHOTO: Eric Holder is seen here in an undated file photo. (Los Angeles Police Department/EPA via Shutterstock)

"The defendant in this case was also an aspiring rapper – not nearly as successful, not nearly as respected and the two didn’t really have a lot in common,” Deputy District Attorney John McKinney told the jury. “They were two men whose arcs in life were bending in two different directions. The one thing they did have in common was their roots.”

McKinney went on to describe the gang activity that Hussle was once involved in as a young man and that Holder allegedly remains in. He said that understanding gang culture is vital to understanding the final encounter between the two men.

Witnesses, including the woman who drove Holder from the scene, are expected to describe a conversation between Holder and Hussle that apparently had to do with rumors about “snitching,” before Holder allegedly fatally shot Hussle 10 times.

Following that conversation, McKinney said Holder asked the woman who was driving the car to circle behind the parking lot, before they return to the scene where he fatally shot Hussle 10 times.

Videos presented in the courtroom will show the moments that Holder allegedly fired at Hussle.

"There's a range of consequences for people who snitch," McKinney said. "No gang member wants to be considered a snitch.”

L.A. County Deputy Public Defender Aaron Jansen said Wednesday in his opening statement that his client was Hussle’s killer.

However, he told the jury that it was Holder’s passionate response to the “snitching” accusations against Hussle and was not premeditated.

"This is a case about the heat of passion," said Jansen. "The provocative act in this case was that Nipsey Hussle made an accusation against Mr. Holder that he was a snitch."

PHOTO: Rapper Nipsey Hussle performs onstage at Banc of California Stadium, Dec. 14, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Scott Dudelson/Getty Images, FILE)
PHOTO: Rapper Nipsey Hussle performs onstage at Banc of California Stadium, Dec. 14, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Scott Dudelson/Getty Images, FILE)

Jansen said that the first-degree charge for premeditated murder should instead be "voluntary manslaughter."

Hussle, the grammy-winning rapper whose real name was Ermias Asghedom, was gunned down in April 2019 outside of his clothing store in South Los Angeles.

Hussle was standing in a parking lot when Holder allegedly approached and shot him multiple times and left two other people wounded, police said. Hussle was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The coroner determined the rapper died from gunshot wounds to the head and torso, ruling the manner of death a homicide.

MORE: Nipsey Hussle's legacy through the eyes of his brother, Los Angeles lawmakers and friends: 'The Marathon continues in us all'

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said the slaying stemmed more from a personal dispute between the two men, though Holder is believed to have been involved in gang activity.

The rapper was an anti-violence advocate who had a meeting planned with the city's police chief and the president of the police commission to discuss ways he could help prevent children from getting involved in gangs.

He was a father to two children – his daughter Emani and his son Kross – with his girlfriend Lauren London.

Hussle has since been honored with posthumous awards and honors, such as the Grammy award for "best rap performance," BET's humanitarian award, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

ABC News' Deena Zaru contributed to this report.

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