Feb. 9, 1996 — As this week wound to a close, the Los Angeles murder trial of rap star Snoop Doggy Dogg and his bodyguard, McKinley Lee, was winding down, too. This is another high profile criminal case that seems unlikely to refurbish the dented reputation of the LA prosecutor’s office.
The trial got off to an eye rolling start with lead prosecutor Ed Neeson admitting that police had mistakenly destroyed material evidence in the case, and the entire three man prosecution team has since been held in contempt of court for a variety of procedural infractions, and fined a total of $600.
Snoop was driving the jeep from which McKinley Lee admittedly shot a 20-year-old man named Phillip Woldemariam three years ago. The defense contends that since Woldemariam had a gun and was pulling it, the shooting was in self-defense. The prosecution used up the better part of a month calling 24 witnesses, some of whom — embarrasingly — scored valuable points for the defense.
a shrewd tactical move, the defense, arguing that the city hadn’t come close to making a case, called just one witness, and then rested — no doubt to the considerable relief of the multi-racial jury. Phillip Woldemariam’s family, natives of Ethiopia, have been in court every day, as has Snoop’s father, Vernal Verando. And on Tuesday, Snoop’s label, Death Row Records, brought in an all-star, hip-hop support group, featuring Tupac Shakur and the artist formerly known as M.C Hammer, both newly signed to the Death Row label, and Devante Swing of Jodeci. And, yes, they did have a few things to say.
TUPAC SHAKUR: Today Is “We love Snoop Day.”
HAMMER: Well you know, Snoop is a good friend of mine. We’ve been friends for quite a while, you know. Friends should always come and support one another. And I’m here to show my love and support for Snoop because obviously, when you listen to the case — they have no case. He’s innocent… It’s just like, they’re putting him through all
this… But it’s indicative of the way a lot of things are going on in this country right now.
DEVANTE SWING: A lot of brothers get… It’s a predicament, ya know what I’m saying? It’s a predicament. We young, and we trying to strive to make it, and you always got to… Justice system trying to put us under… It’s jealousy. But I feel like this: I’m buying Snoop and whatever he’s standing for because I feel like he’s innocent.
McKINLEY LEE: It’s stressful, and I thank God that it’s here and it’s almost over with. Basically, that’s it.
SNOOP DOGGY DOGG: I’m just taking it day by day, you know what I’m saying? We’re just trying to stay strong, stay spiritual, just keep keep praying. I’m not looking forward to…. just takin’ it day by day. The impression is simple as this, I need my baby with me, and he need me with him.