Perceptions about rap music a big focus of jury selection in Lil’ Boosie trial
POSTED: Thursday, May 3, 2012 - 10:30am
UPDATED: Friday, May 4, 2012 - 4:31pm
BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — Jury selection is expected to wrap up this afternoon for the First-Degree murder trial of Torrence “Lil' Boosie” Hatch.
On Wednesday, May 2, the prosecution and the defense vigorously polled potential jurors.
The jurors were brought out simultaneously in groups of four. Judge Michael Erwin individually asked the four anonymous jurors, known only by number, general questions about their availability for the trial that is expected to last two or more weeks.
Judge Erwin continued with questions concerning their knowledge of the defendant and rap music. The judge also asked if any of the jurors had preconceived notions based on the media attention the case has received.
One juror told the judge, “I’m not fit to be on this jury. I don’t think he is guilty. If every rapper was judged on a song, everybody would be locked up.” The judge then asked if she would be able to put her beliefs aside and make a decision based on the prosecution’s evidence. She said, “They have crooked cops everywhere. As a rapper, he already has a black spot over his head.”
But not all jurors were as passionate about Hatch’s innocence.
Prosecution lawyer, Dana Cummings, said to one juror, “We want fair and partial jurors. If you are selected can you put your presumptions aside?” He said, “I’ll try.” Things heated up when Cummings asked the same juror if he listened to rap music.
The juror replied, “Do I look like I would listen to rap music?” Cummings then explained that she could not tell if a person likes rap music based on their physical attributes. The juror firmly stated, “Well, I’m just an old redneck.” The juror went on to say that he believed Hatch was sitting in court for a reason and he would not be able to make an unprejudiced decision. The judge allowed him to be dismissed and released him from the possibility of serving on the jury.
Many other jurors were also dismissed for various reasons. One young man admitted to being a high school classmate of Hatch and considered him to be a friend and the two also shared a mutual cousin.
Another juror was dismissed due to her church affiliation with the family. She told the court that the defendant was on their prayer list and she would find it hard to convict him if evidence proved him to be guilty.
For the first time this week, the courtroom was illuminated by Hatch’s smile when a juror admitted to being a fan of the rapper and owning all of his albums. Although she was a qualified juror, the court assumed her devotion to the rapper would bring a bias opinion and therefore she was also dismissed.
During the interrogation of the jurors, the defense informed the jurors not to allow lyrics in this case to be taken literal. Defense attorney Jason Williams made reference to a verse from country singer Johnny Cash’s song, “Folsom Prison Blues.”
When I was just a baby my mama told me son,
always be a good boy, don't ever play with guns.
But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.
Williams illustrated how musicians of other genres recite explicit lyrics; yet, their words are not taken seriously and they are not criminally judged for doing so.
At this time no definite jurors have been selected but all remaining jurors were advised to come to court today with a suitcase. If chosen, they will be sequestered as early as this evening.
To ensure fair trial jurors will be isolated from any outside influences such as, radio, newspaper, internet or television. Jurors are ordered to stay in a hotel monitored by the sheriff’s office. Jurors will not have access to their cellular phones except during supervised calls to family and friends.
Opening statements are predicted to begin as early as Friday morning and lead into the weekend.