YNW Melly could face the death penalty after Florida appealed the court’s side with prosecutors

A Florida appeals court ruled on Wednesday YNW Melly could face the death penalty if convicted in his upcoming murder trial, overturning a judge’s decision that prosecutors forfeited the right to seek the death penalty.

With a lawsuit looming this past summer, Judge Andrew Siegel ruled that prosecutors could not seek the death penalty because they had failed to give Melly and his lawyers proper notice that they planned to do so, in violation of strict state regulations.

But in a ruling on Wednesday, Florida’s District Court of Appeal ruled that the judge’s ruling was wrong. Since prosecutors indicated they could seek the death penalty when they first charged Melly in 2019, they had complied with state rules. “Notice is notice,” the court wrote in its opinion.

The ruling means Melly could be sentenced to death if convicted in his upcoming trial. But that likely won’t happen until the Florida Supreme Court rules on the case because Wednesday’s ruling confirmed the issue was one of “great public importance” that should be decided by the state’s highest court.

In a statement to BillboardMelly’s lawyer Philip R. Horowitz said he and his client were “disappointed with the ruling” but “look forward to our opportunity to argue our case to the judges.”

The ruling came as Melly (real name Jamell Demons) continues to await trial on first-degree murder charges for allegations that he and another rapper shot and killed Anthony “YNW Sakchaser” Williams and Christopher “YNW Juvy” Thomas Jr . in 2018.

A trial had previously been scheduled for April but was called off at the last minute, prompting Melly’s lawyers to file a so-called “speedy trial motion” that would require the trial to start within 60 days. Another trial was then set for July, but the case stayed again delayed over the current dispute about the death penalty.

A person accused of first-degree murder in Florida typically faces the possibility of execution if convicted, but Melly’s lawyers argued in April that the state had not followed strict laws on how to warn defendants that they will seek the death penalty.

Florida requires prosecutors to give notice 45 days after sentencing if they plan to seek the death penalty. In Melly’s case, the state attorney’s office filed such a notice when they originally indicted the rapper in 2019, but failed to do so when a so-called superseding indictment was handed down earlier this year.

In July, Judge Siegel sided with Melly’s lawyers, saying prosecutors had wasted the chance to seek death. But after prosecutors argued the ruling was clearly wrong, Judge Siegel acknowledged his ruling raised a new legal issue and stayed the case until a state appeals court could rule on it.

On Wednesday, the High Court did so – and decisively sided with the prosecution.

“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 the arraignment.” Judge Spencer D. Levine wrote to the Court of Appeal. “The fact that the State filed a superseding indictment requiring a second prosecution is not prejudicial to the already filed and timely notice of intent. Notice is notice.”

The ruling said the rules were designed to give defendants a fair chance to prepare for a death sentence and that prosecutors had met that requirement with their original notice.

“It is clear that the defendant in this case had notice and notice of the state seeking the death penalty in 2019,” Judge Levine wrote. “The defendant has had nearly three years to begin preparing his defense against the state seeking the death penalty [and] the record contains no evidence that the defendant was harmed in any way.”

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