Zoom depositions set in YNW Melly capital murder case; Pre-trial discovery continues in 2021

Corey Arwood   | Treasure Coast Newspapers VERO BEACH — Jamell Demons' next court appearance — 

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Corey Arwood   | Treasure Coast Newspapers

VERO BEACH — Jamell Demons' next court appearance — a status hearing where prosecutors and attorneys will discuss the progress of the Gifford rapper's double homicide capital murder case, possibly by Zoom — is scheduled Jan. 28, 2021.

Despite messages of "Free Melly" from YNW Melly fans, and the 21-year-old incarcerated artist's tweets saying he'll "be home soon," prosecutors said even without the COVID-19 pandemic, homicide cases regularly take "more than a couple years" to reach trial.

Yet, fueled by social media gossip and online clickbait, speculation persists on the status of the rapper's case and his incarceration.

The Broward County State Attorney's Office said Demons' case isn't going to trial anytime soon, and without bond, Demons will be staying in jail.

"COVID-19 is affecting practically all cases in our jurisdiction," said Broward State Attorney's Office spokeswoman Paula McMahon, by email. "Every case has unique facts and circumstances, but homicide cases routinely take more than a couple of years."

More: 'Versace on my sneaks' and COVID-19 in jail: Gifford rap star YNW Melly's life behind bars

Almost two years after the Oct. 26, 2018 shooting deaths of Anthony Williams of Gifford — YNW Sakchaser — and Christopher Thomas Jr. of Fort Pierce — YNW Juvy, Demons remains in Broward County Jail where he's been held without bail on two first-degree murder charges since he turned himself in to law enforcement on Feb. 13, 2019.

A number of factors likely have caused confusion about the case, namely the affect of the pandemic on courtrooms across the state, and the release from jail of Demons' longtime friend and fellow rapper Cortlen Henry, known as YNW Bortlen, who was arrested on two murder and accessory charges in the shootings.

Demons, who his attorney said contracted COVID-19 in jail, fought for release from jail in April but was denied by a judge in May. He was thought to be the second person to test positive for the virus inside the facility.

Henry's Miami house arrest

Henry was released from jail in late June after securing at least $90,000 in collateral on a $180,000 bail.

Court documents showed $18,000 of that came from Henry's "accumulated portion" of a merchandise line, Young New Wave Apparel, LLC, or YNW Apparel, operated by Demons' music manager, Jameson Francois, of 100KMGT, in late May.

Henry was reportedly entitled to 35% of YNW Apparel's earnings, "in exchange for YNW Apparel's use of the YNW brand partially founded by Mr. Henry," according to a Broward County court record.

Henry was placed on "Level 2 House Arrest" at a court-approved home in Miami where he's allowed to leave for work or court meetings. He's monitored by GPS and was ordered to have no contact with people associated with the case in a filing by Circuit Judge Andrew Siegel May 23.

Henry's last Zoom court appearance was Sept. 17, during which Fort Lauderdale attorney Fred Haddad said they discussed depositions.

"We’re continuing with discovery trying to get depositions set," said Haddad by phone Sept. 18. "We want in-person depositions ... in criminal cases, it's ridiculous to do a Zoom deposition."

A court filing for Demons on Sept. 22, showed a deposition by Zoom of four detectives scheduled for Oct. 5 by one of Demons' attorneys, David Howard, of Miami.

"All court hearings in our jurisdiction are being held via Zoom due to the pandemic," said McMahon.

Demons last scheduled court appearance — a status conference scheduled Aug. 13 — was cancelled by Demons' attorneys, according to McMahon.

After several calls and messages, no attorney on Demons' defense team could be reached by phone.

"Prosecutors are still seeking the death penalty for Mr. Demons, but not for Mr. Henry," McMahon said.

More: Cortlen Henry's bail set at $180,000 in YNW Melly double murder case; remains jailed

The shootings

Police and prosecutors alleged the pair staged a drive-by shooting with Demons as the gunman, and Henry the driver who took the two men to the location of the shooting in the Everglades and then drove their bodies to the hospital in Miramar.

Both Henry and Demons pleaded not guilty in the shooting deaths of fellow recording artists, Williams — YNW Sakchaser — and  Thomas Jr.  — YNW Juvy.

More: YNW Melly murder case: It's been a year since he was charged with the murder of 2 friends; he remains in jail

In an Aug. 2019 bond hearing for Henry, Assistant State Attorney Kristine Bradley stated Henry drove Williams and Thomas to the Everglades, where Demons shot them both in the head and staged a drive-by, shooting their bodies again and shooting the exterior of the Jeep.

Haddad said then that the evidence showed Henry "never fired a weapon" and that "the shooting by all evidence occurred from the rear left seat; Mr. Henry was the driver."

"There is just no evidence in any way suggesting (Henry) was involved in the alleged murders," argued Haddad.

More: 'MELLY VS. MELVIN': Jamell Demons behind bars on murder charges with new album on the way

Corey Arwood is a breaking news reporter for TCPalm. Follow Corey on Twitter @coreyarwood, or reach him by phone at 772-978-2246.

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