YNW Melly was framed. It’s the only explanation that makes sense considering the evidence, the lack of evidence, and the conflicts in the evidence, according to the holdout juror whose commitment to a “not guilty” verdict led to a hung jury and a mistrial for Jamell “YNW Melly” Demons in July.
In her first interview since the jury’s deliberations ended, juror number 7, who asked not to be named out of concern for public response, said she was able to convince two other jurors to vote against conviction, leading to a 9-3 deadlock.
“I believe that he didn’t do it and it wasn’t proved in court,” said the Fort Lauderdale resident. “This was a really bad situation of being framed. Melly was a very good person. He always tried to help out people around him.”
Demons was a rising star in the rap world when he was accused of suddenly shooting two friends to death in October 2018.
Christopher “YNW Juvy” Thomas and Anthony “YNW Sakchaser” Williams were shot to death inside a Jeep driven by their friend, Cortland “YNW Bortlen” Henry. Prosecutors say Demons was seated behind Henry after an overnight recording session in Fort Lauderdale early on Oct. 26, 2018.
According to the state, Henry and Demons tried to make it look like their friends were the victims of a drive-by shooting in Miramar, but elements of that story made no sense to investigators. The shots fired at Henry’s vehicle came from outside the car. The shots that killed Williams and Thomas came from inside.
But missing pieces of information left room for the three jurors to doubt. Henry, Demons, Williams and Thomas were seen on surveillance footage leaving a studio near downtown Fort Lauderdale after a late-night recording session. Demons was seated behind the driver, and forensic experts said that is where the gunman who killed the victims was sitting.
Phone records showed Demons’ phone never left the car during the time in question.
But there was enough time after the recording session for Demons to leave the car and for someone else to come in, the juror said. The weapon used to commit the crime was never recovered. Could it have been someone else? For the holdout juror, doubt was more than reasonable.
“Between them leaving the recording studio and the phone pinging in the everglades, anything could have happened,” she said.
In the jury room, most wanted to convict, she said. The prosecution’s insistence that there was some kind of gang activity that explained why Demons would suddenly kill his friends carried a lot of weight with most jurors. Others read it as racial profiling.
“This was not a matter of fact but a matter of race,” she said. Demons, Henry, and the victims are all Black. The lead police investigator and lead prosecutor were white. The holdout juror, who is Black, said she felt the gang connection was tenuous.
Prosecutors pointed to text messages that made it appear Demons was having an argument with the victims over creative credit and compensation for their work. Those messages, the jurors said, may not have come from Demons.
“I wasn’t there, but I believe he was being framed, based on the text messages,” she said.
Demons faces the possibility of execution if he is convicted. His retrial is scheduled to begin next month.
Miramar police said they are looking into allegations that their lead investigator, Mark Moretti, used excessive force in recovering evidence from Demons’ mother, Jamie King. The alleged incident took place in October 2022, but the complaint against Moretti was not filed until July 2023.
The State Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, did not offer a comment on the case.
Demons is being held without bail in the Broward Main Jail. Defense lawyers have asked for the judge to set bail while he awaits retrial. A bond hearing is tentatively scheduled for later this month, and jury selection is set to begin on Oct. 9.
Rafael Olmeda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-356-4457.