FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The trial of Jamell “YNW Melly” Demons ended Saturday afternoon with a split jury after more than 14 hours of deliberation over three days.
Jurors told Broward Circuit Judge John J. Murphy that they could not reach a unanimous decision even after being directed Friday to do everything possible to resolve their disagreements. They deliberated for more than five hours after telling the judge Friday that they were deadlocked.
Failure to reach a verdict means the jury is excused, the 24-year-old Demons will likely remain in custody and the trial will begin again at a later date with a new jury. Prosecutors may reconsider whether to apply the death penalty.
The new trial should begin with jury selection in 90 days, Murphy said.
Closing arguments were held Thursday.. On Friday, jurors asked for testimony to be read, then told the judge they were deadlocked. The judge read a routine instruction called the “Allen charge,” ordering jurors to try harder, consider each other’s arguments, and try to reach unanimous agreement.
Since then, jurors did not send messages to the court until Saturday afternoon, when they asked to see a damaged cell phone belonging to victim Christopher “YNW Juvy” Thomas.
Thomas and Anthony “YNW Sakchaser” Williams were shot and killed inside a jeep driven by their friend, Cortland “YNW Bortlen” Henry. Prosecutors say Demons was sitting behind Henry after a late-night recording session in Fort Lauderdale early on Oct. 26, 2018.
The four young men were part of a collective of rap artists and lifelong friends. Prosecutors believe Demons hooked up with the victims for money and creative credit, and that Demons was part of an offshoot of the Bloods street gang.
Defense attorneys say that’s not enough to explain why Demons would, without apparent provocation, fire a gun at Williams and Thomas, killing them.
Still, prosecutors say, all the evidence points to Demons as the shooter. He was seen on surveillance footage climbing into the seat where forensic experts say the gunman sat. He told investigators the victims died in a moving car, even though the bullets that killed them came from inside the car.
Demons and Henry were charged with stopping the car in an isolated area off US 27 and shooting at the vehicle from the outside to stage the drive-through. Henry then took the victims, alone, to Memorial Hospital in Miramar, where they were officially pronounced dead.
But prosecutors say the drive-by was arranged after the victims were already dead.
Henry, who has been charged as a principal and an accessory to the murders, will be tried separately.