Thursday, April 26, 2018
News Roundup

Will a Pinellas man's rap lyrics be used against him in murder trial?

From the jail telephone receiver Eddie Walker rapped to a friend the lyrics he'd written, an account that mirrors the charges he hoped to beat.

"One of my dawgs turned on me, yea he went state. Now I'm fighting for my life on a murder case."

The 26-year-old continued.

"When I get dis dope an I don't make a profit, I'm a grab my 9 and I'm a go to robbing."

And the part that's especially damning, prosecutors say, is this next bit:

"Cracker tried to turn my lady into a state witness … I believe all snitches should be killed."

The detective investigating the case listened to a recording of the conversation and dialed the Pinellas County Jail, where deputies searched Walker's cell, made copies of the lyrics and forwarded them to the detective.

On Friday, Walker's lawyers and prosecutors debated if his own lyrical musing could be used as evidence during trial.

In April 2012, Terrance Thomas of Largo was killed with a 9mm bullet to the head. Walker's ex-girlfriend, who is cooperating with authorities, said Walker became enraged after he bought a brick of cocaine from Thomas and it was too "cut," meaning it was too impure.

After the killing, more than a dozen deputies and two dogs surrounded Walker at an Ulmerton Road convenience store. Walker tore off his shirt, slid out of his sandals and outran the dogs and deputies.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri later marveled at Walker's escape, comparing him to Usain Bolt, the Jamaican gold medalist sprinter.

Authorities tracked him down months later near Atlanta and brought him to the county jail, where he has been held without bail ever since.

The state's argument is that the lyrics prove Walker has specific knowledge of the killing, was involved in the drug trade and that he is a dangerous man who wants his ex-girlfriend dead.

The defense says the lyrics are fictitious meditations on the rap culture.

Walker's attorney, Rob Love, said if the lyrics are used during the trial, they will be "subject to speculation, and subject to a variety of interpretation."

"Now all the sudden it's going to be, 'Oh, well he referenced a 9mm therefore he must be referencing the murder in and of itself,' " Love told Pinellas-Pasco Judge Timothy Peters. "All these matters that he references are public knowledge."

However, prosecutors have used a defendant's creative work, poetry or songs as evidence in previous cases.

In 2012, the state of Louisiana admitted lyrics in a murder case against rapper Lil Boosie, saying the lyrics showed he, too, had specific knowledge of the crime. He was found not guilty.

Bob Dekle, a legal skills professor at the University of Florida, said in the early 1990s he prosecuted a case where a serial killer recorded a song about his taste for rape and murder.

"I listened to it, and it didn't make a damned bit of sense to me," Dekle said.

Ultimately, he decided against entering the song into evidence because he didn't feel it would help the case and would only besmirch the defendant's character.

And that's what Peters will look at. How similar are the lyrics to the case? And will they add to the prosecution, or only tarnish Walker's character in front of the jury?

Dekle said if he was the defense attorney, he wouldn't want the lyrics admitted. He said a juror could hear them and decide that whether Walker did it or not, he should be exiled from the public.

Dekle also had advice for Walker: "If he was worried about passing the time and being creative, he could have written a song about how innocent he was, or how falsely accused he was."

Peters did not make a ruling Friday, but will have to before Walker heads to his first-degree murder trial, which is scheduled for June 3.

Weston Phippen can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8321.

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