The prosecutor in YNW Melly’s murder case, days into first rounds of jury selection, requested that the South Florida rapper’s mother be barred from sitting through the retrial.
Prosecutor Alixandra Buckelew, still a fresh face in Melly’s case, urged Broward Circuit Court Judge John Murphy on Wednesday to ban Jamie King, Melly’s mother, from having contact with jurors and entering the courthouse — unless as a witness. On top of that, Buckelew asked Murphy to order King stay 1,000 feet away from the building and allow the prosecution to conduct an inquiry of all prequalified jurors.
Murphy rejected Buckelew’s request.
The prosecutor’s latest filing came after a prospective juror alleged that she saw King crying near the parking garage in what Buckelew called “a clear attempt to manipulate or influence potential jurors returning for attorney questioning.”
The juror, who works for the Broward Sheriff’s Office, called BSO Legal Counsel Christian Tsoubanos and said she saw a woman wearing blue scrubs in the courtroom later “obviously crying into a tissue” as jurors were exiting to the parking garage.
The juror also claimed King tried to make “intense” eye contact with her and was “clearly trying to get her attention and speak with her eyes,” according to the filing.
King, Buckelew said, was in the courtroom on Tuesday and didn’t “appear to be upset or in distress during the proceedings.” Instead, she was “in good spirits” and even “giddy” when she saw a coworker on the panel. When asked if he heard about the case, the potential juror “coyly stated, ‘he had heard of it,’” according to Buckelew’s filing. He later divulged details about his relationship with King.
“Despite these heightened security protocols, security concerns have not arisen regarding improper juror contact and attempted jury tampering only two days into the trial,” Buckelew argued.
But King told the Miami Herald that none of that happened, adding that she was “completely bewildered” by the accusations.
“It’s all frustrating,” King said. “I’ve been in that courtroom for over four years. I know the rules. I’ve gone through this.”
ًWhen prosecutors argued for the ban in front of Murphy Wednesday, King said she felt like she was being bullied and was so uncomfortable that she decided to leave jury selection early. She said the only chance she gets to see her son, who doesn’t have access to phone calls or visitation, is during his court appearances — and she will continue to show up and support him.
“I understand that the state has a job to do, but to attack me?” she said. “I’m at a loss for words.”
What else is happening in the retrial?
While the rapper’s case is currently in the early stages of jury selection, Murphy has yet to rule on dozens of pending motions, the bulk of which were drafted by the defense.
Murphy denied Melly’s legal team’s request to throw out the rapper’s case, according to an order provided to the Miami Herald on Wednesday. In his filing, Murphy argued that the evidence the defense presented doesn’t show that the top officials of the Broward State Attorney’s Office, including State Attorney Harold Pryor, “engaged in a cover-up” with former prosecutor Kristine Bradley, who was ousted from the case in mid-October.
In August, Melly’s defense team learned that Miramar Police Detective Mark Moretti was ”under investigation” for allegedly using force against a possible witness in the case, which stemmed from a complaint King made in July. Defense lawyers accused Bradley of a Brady violation, or concealing information favorable to the defense, for allegedly not sharing details about the incident involving Moretti.
Under Florida law, prosecutors are required to disclose any information that may be favorable to the defense. The discovery of Brady violations, in some cases, have even led to overturned convictions.
“Alleged misconduct involving one prosecutor does not necessarily extend beyond that prosecutor,” Murphy said. “There was no institutional or pervasive misconduct by the State Attorney’s Office...”
Melly, Murphy said, now has full access to the Brady material and can call Michelle Boutros, a prosecutor with the Public Corruptions Unit, to the stand to cast doubt on Moretti’s credibility at trial. Boutros recounted the events of the October 2022 incident and accused Moretti of unethical behavior during an interview with defense attorneys.
The appropriate remedy for a Brady violation is usually a new trial, Murphy said. He also didn’t find a violation of double jeopardy, which bars the retrial of someone found not guilty.
“Defendant’s first trial did not result in a mistrial because of the Brady violation,” Murphy said in the filing. “Rather, in concluded in a mistrial due to the jury’s inability to reach a unanimous verdict, which does not implicate double jeopardy.”