LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jurors found a 32-year-old man guilty of first-degree murder Wednesday for the 2019 fatal shooting of rapper Nipsey Hussle.
The Los Angeles County jury also found Eric R. Holder Jr. guilty of two counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter for gunfire that hit other men at the scene. Prosecutors had sought two counts of attempted murder. Holder also was found guilty of two counts of assault with a firearm on the same men.
Holder, wearing a blue suit and face mask, stood up in the small court room next to his lawyer as the verdict was read. He had no visible reaction.
“I am deeply disappointment in the First Degree Murder verdict,” Holder’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Aaron Jansen, said in an email. “It was always going to be tough given the high profile circumstances surrounding the case.”
Jansen added that he and Holder were grateful that the jury agreed that the attempted murder counts were overcharged. They plan to appeal the first-degree murder conviction, he said.
A jury of nine women and three men deliberated for about six hours over two days before reaching the verdict. Most of their deliberations took place Friday, and they promptly came to their unanimous decision Wednesday, briefly reconvening after a four-day break.
Typos on the verdict form compelled jurors to briefly return to the deliberation room to correct and sign them while attorneys, reporters and others waited in the courtroom. No relatives of Hussle were in the room when the verdict was read, nor did any attend the trial.
Holder could get life in prison when he’s sentenced on Sept. 15.
The verdict brings an end to a legal saga that has lasted more than three years and a trial that was often delayed because of the pandemic.
Holder and Hussle had known each other for years — they grew up members of the same South Los Angeles street gang — when a chance meeting outside the rapper’s Los Angeles clothing store led to the shooting, and his death.
The evidence against Holder was overwhelming, from eyewitnesses to surveillance cameras from local businesses that captured his arrival, the shooting and his departure.
His attorney did not even deny that he was the shooter but urged jurors to find him guilty of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.
The shooting followed a conversation the two men had about rumors that Holder had been acting as an informant for authorities. Jansen said that being publicly accused of being a “snitch” by a person as prominent as Hussle brought on a “heat of passion” in Holder that made him not guilty of first-degree murder.
“This is a provocation that stirs up rage and powerful emotion,” Jansen told jurors during closing arguments.
Deputy District Attorney John McKinney argued during the trial that Holder and everyone else in the conversation that preceded Hussle’s death were so calm that the “snitching” conversation could not have been the primary motive, and that Holder must have had some previous envy or hatred for Hussle.
McKinney told jurors that the nine minutes between the conversation and the shooting allowed more than enough time for the killing to be premeditated, a requirement for first-degree murder.
The jury apparently agreed.
Hussle, whose legal name is Ermias Asghedom, died at age 33. He had just released his major-label debut album, which earned him his first Grammy nomination, when he was gunned down.
He was a widely beloved figure in Los Angeles, especially in the South LA area where he grew up and remained after gaining fame, buying property and opening businesses.
“He wanted to change the neighborhood,” McKinney said in his closing argument. “He kept the same friends. And the neighborhood loved him. They called him Neighborhood Nip.”
Hussle was mourned at a memorial at the arena then known as Staples Center, and celebrated in a performance at the Grammy Awards that included D.J. Khaled and John Legend.