When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong: Khali Holmes’ Lyrics Used in Murder, Robbery Trial

“I catching slipping at the club and jack you for your necklace. **** parking lot pimping. Man I’m parking lot jacking, running through your pockets with uh ski mask on straight laughing.”

Nevada Supreme Court OK’s Use of Lyrics in Criminal Trial

The Nevada Supreme Court has upheld the murder and armed robbery conviction of rapper Deyundrea “Khali” Holmes. Prosecutors claimed at Holmes’ trial that he penned confessional lyrics while awaiting extraditions to Nevada. Those damning words (seen above) ultimately helped convince a jury to agree with the prosecution. The lyrics and the details of the murder and robbery had a lot in common.

The Murder and Robbery

Lyrics admitted at murder trial

Lyrics are Evidence at Murder Trial

According to facts brought out at trial, victim Kevin “Mo” Nelson operated a recording studio in Reno, Nevada. He also used the studio as front for drug dealing. Rapper Holmes knew of both of these details. Holmes plotted with others to steal drugs and money from Nelson. On a snowy November night, they set the scheme into motion. Accomplice Jaffar “G” Richardson called Nelson to arrange a fake meth deal. Nelson arrived shortly to the studio.

Two men wearing ski masks and black clothes (later identified as Holmes and Max Reed) attacked Nelson. Nelson’s pockets were “bunny-eared” (turned inside out) during the fight. An assailant also ripped off Nelson’s shirt and chain necklace, pistol whipped him, and then tried to drag him from the parking lot into the studio. The assailant, in a fit of rage, removed his ski mask and threatened to shoot Nelson. He then pulled the trigger. Nelson staggered, fell, and died. Reed would say that Holmes was the assailant. “Khali [Holmes] went off … and just started shooting him.”

Art Imitates Life

It’s not hard to the see the similarity between Holmes’ lyrics and the his alleged actions. This likeness surely helped convince the jury of Holmes’ guilt, too. But were Holmes’ lyrics just an artistic expression, puffing, that the jury shouldn’t have heard? The Court decided that because the lyrics were not general boasts, but included specific details of the murder and robbery, the jury should hear them. They were not so vague as to create an unfair bias against Holmes. It was up to the jury to decide whether a violent artistic expression had imitated life.

In the end, the First Amendment right to free speech is undoubtedly a treasured American principle. Holmes just likely wishes he hadn’t exercised that right.

Ari Good, JD LLM, a tax, aviation and entertainment lawyer, is the Shareholder of Good Attorneys At Law, P.A. He graduated from the DePaul University College of Law in 1997 and received his LL.M. in Taxation from the University of Florida.

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