Jurors decided to call it a night after nine hours of deliberations Monday without reaching a verdict in the second-degree murder trial of rapper Corey “C-Murder” Miller.
The panel, which will be sequestered overnight, was to return Tuesday morning to resume their discussion.
Lawyers for Miller said in closing arguments Monday that testimony by two prosecution witnesses wasn’t strong enough to overcome the lack of physical evidence linking the entertainer to the slaying of a teenage fan.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, painted Miller as a thug who shot the 16-year-old who regarded him as a hero during a brawl in a Harvey, La., nightclub in 2002.
Once the arguments had wrapped up, jurors began deliberating on whether Miller is guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Steve Thomas, but soon indicated they were having trouble reaching a consensus. At least 10 of the 12 jurors must agree on a verdict.
After 3 1/2 hours, the panel of seven women and five men sent a note to state District Judge Hans Liljeberg saying, “We have a vote and can’t go forward. No one will change their vote. How do we proceed?” The judge told them to continue deliberating.
The 38-year-old Miller would face a mandatory life term if convicted of second-degree murder. The jury could also find him guilty of manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years.
Thomas had used a fake ID to get into the club to take part in a rap contest Miller was attending, hoping to impress his idol, but sparked a clash instead and was shot, according to testimony during the trial. Prosecutors David Wolff and Shannon Swaim said Miller shot Thomas as the youth lay on the floor, being beaten and kicked by a group of Miller’s friends.
“If Steve Thomas were here today, he’d be 23,” Swaim said in an impassioned closing statement. “He’d want you to know C-Murder isn’t his hero anymore. The last time he looked up to him was Jan. 12, 2002. And the last time he looked up to him, he shot him.”
With no physical evidence to tie Miller to the murder, prosecutors relied on the testimony of two witnesses — Darneil Jordan Sr. and Kenneth Jordan, who are not related.
Darneil Jordan, a security guard at the club, testified that he saw Miller reach under the crowd beating Thomas then saw a flash and heard the shot. He said he never saw the gun.
Jordan changed his story several times and originally described the shooter as much shorter and stockier than the tall, thin Miller.
Kenneth Jordan said Miller strode into the crowd, leaned down and shot Thomas one time. He had a deal with the district attorney to drop prosecution on another charge if he testified.
Both men were kept in protective custody to ensure they would testify.
Miller’s attorney presented only recordings of testimony by four witnesses at Miller’s previous trial — a conviction that was later overturned. All four said Miller wasn’t in the fight, but disagreed about where he was.
Defense attorney Ron Rakosky in closing arguments said that all the prosecution had offered was two weak witnesses. There was no gun-residue, no DNA and no gun tied to Miller, he said.
“These people didn’t give you anything whatsoever that can help you tip the scale against Corey Miller,” Rakosky said.
The two reluctant witnesses were not enough to erase reasonable doubt, Rakosky said. The prosecution was instead relying on what he called a “wink, wink, nod, nod,” strategy.
“There was a sense that we many not have real good evidence in this case, but come on guys, this guy is a thug,” Rakosky said, his tone sarcastic.
Miller and his brothers — Percy “Master P” Miller and Vyshonn “Silkk The Shocker” Miller — used to rap on the now-defunct No Limit record label, a popular producer of Southern rap through the 1990s that was founded by Percy Miller.