Notorious B.I.G. Wrongful-Death Suit Goes to Trial

Jury selected for suit filed by rapper's family against city of Los Angeles.

Opening statements in the wrongful-death civil action filed by the family of Notorious B.I.G. were presented in court on Tuesday, with attorney Robert Frank declaring that a crooked police officer arranged the 1997 murder of the New York rapper.

During his opening statement to the six-man, three-woman jury, Frank levied several scathing allegations against the Los Angeles Police Department — more specifically, officer David Mack — according to the Los Angeles Times.

In 2002, the rapper's mother, Voletta Wallace, and his widow, singer Faith Evans — along with other heirs — filed a wrongful-death suit in federal court against the city of Los Angeles as well as former and current Los Angeles Police Department chiefs. Last year, the suit was cleared to go to trial (see "Notorious B.I.G. Wrongful-Death Suit Can Go To Trial, Judge Rules"); the city stands as the only remaining defendant.

Ultimately, the jury will decide who can be held accountable for the murder of Biggie Smalls (born Christopher Wallace). Jurors must consider whether Mack hatched a plot to kill Biggie before they can find fault with city policy and rule on damages, the Times reported.

"This is a circumstantial evidence case," Frank — who has theorized that Mack turned to a college friend, Amir Muhammad, to carry out the killing — told jurors. Neither the LAPD nor the FBI, who also investigated the killing, has named a suspect in the case (see "FBI Ends Investigation Into Notorious B.I.G. Murder"). "If you look at all the facts of this case, more probably than not, David Mack was involved in this murder and used the tools of the trade to carry it out."

Assistant Los Angeles City Attorney Vince Marella, representing the municipality, countered Frank's claims, and urged jurors to reject allegations of a conspiracy in Wallace's death, arguing there was insufficient evidence to suggest Mack was involved, reports the Times. Marella told the jury that the plaintiffs' case lacked substance.

Wallace was killed on March 9, 1997, while sitting in a sport utility vehicle following a music-industry event at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles' Mid-Wilshire district. Eight years later, police have made little progress on the case, which remains unsolved.

Initially, Los Angeles police detectives speculated that rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight may have solicited Mack to carry out the Wallace homicide as retaliation for the murder of Tupac Shakur (see "Ex-Police Officer Suspected In Notorious B.I.G. Shooting"). Both deaths served as the climax of a rivalry between West Coast and East Coast factions, associated with Knight's Los Angeles-based Death Row Records and Biggie's label home, New York-based Bad Boy Entertainment. Mack and Knight have denied involvement.

Marella said that there is "no evidence that there was any agreement between Mack and Knight to kill Mr. Wallace," according to the Times.

Check out the feature "Notorious B.I.G.: Still The Illest," where Jay-Z, Kanye, Jada, Alicia and others share their favorite Biggie verses.