'Unfairly prejudicial' music videos shown at trial not enough to nix Grand Rapids murder conviction

Appeals court upholds conviction in 2013 case

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. (WZZM) - Rap videos in which an accused killer talks about guns and violence shouldn’t have been shown to a Kent County jury, but isn’t enough to warrant a new trial, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled.

Jamal Devonta Bennett was convicted of second-degree murder for the March, 2013 shooting death of another man at a birthday party in Grand Rapids.   

In his appeal, Bennett contends he should be given a new trial because prosecutors showed jurors two music videos in which Bennett talks about guns and violence.

Justices agreed the two music videos “were unfairly prejudicial,’’ but it's not enough to overturn the conviction given “the substantial amount of otherwise damning evidence’’ against him.

“Here, three witnesses testified that they saw the defendant shoot the victim,’’ justices wrote earlier this month.

The prosecution offered the music videos, both of which involved lyrics regarding violence and gun possession, as evidence of Bennett’s “intent to kill, i.e. his ‘mentality of shoot first, ask questions later,’'’ court records show.

The shooting occurred March 16, 2013 when several uninvited, gun-toting guests crashed a birthday party, leaving 30-year-old DeRecko Martin dead and his brother wounded. The birthday party was for Phillip Williams, who was shot in the leg.

Witnesses put Bennett at the crime scene and identified him as the one who shot Martin on the second floor of a four-unit apartment house on Marshall Avenue SE.

A Kent County jury convicted Bennett in May, 2015. He was sentenced to between 30 and 100 years for second-degree murder and a mandatory two-year term for using a gun during a felony.

Now 21, Bennett is at the Michigan Reformatory in Ionia. The earliest he can be considered for release is Dec. 2046.

 

(© 2016 WZZM)


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