For the second time in 31/2 years, an East Baton Rouge Parish jury has acquitted a Baton Rouge rap artist accused of murder.
The latest came late Friday, when Samuel “Mista Cain” Nicholas was found not guilty of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder in the June 2012 shooting death of Jordan Key, 18, and wounding of a 19-year-old man with Key.
Nicholas, 26, was not the accused triggerman. The shooter, Chattley Chesterfield, 21, and an accomplice, 24-year-old Essence Dyson, both were convicted Friday night of second-degree murder and aggravated battery.
The month before that fatal shooting, Torence Hatch, formerly known as Lil Boosie, was acquitted of first-degree murder in an alleged murder-for-hire in Baton Rouge in 2009. Michael “Marlo Mike” Louding, the accused shooter in that case, was found guilty of first-degree murder at a separate trial in 2013 and sentenced to life in prison.
East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Dana Cummings prosecuted Nicholas, Chesterfield and Dyson, as well as Hatch and Louding.
“We don’t shy away from hard cases,” she said after Friday’s verdicts.
Asked about the second acquittal of a Baton Rouge rapper since 2012, District Attorney Hillar Moore III said, “We don’t try rappers. We try defendants.”
Moore called Friday’s verdicts fair, even though he said he disagreed with the acquittal of Nicholas.
The jury deliberated for 21/2 hours.
“The state simply didn’t prove the case” against Nicholas, said his attorney, Tommy Damico.
Jordan Key’s mother, Gina Key-Conrad, said she prayed for peace and for God’s will to be done.
“I feel justice was served and God’s will was done,” she said outside state District Judge Richard Anderson’s courtroom. “I’m satisfied with the verdict.”
Dyson faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Chesterfield, who was 17 at the time of the crime, faces a possible life term.
The Key slaying occurred five days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states, including Louisiana, cannot automatically impose life sentences without the possibility of parole on juveniles in murder cases. The justices said judges must consider a defendant’s youth, the nature of the crime and other factors before putting them behind bars with no hope for parole.
Cummings alleged at the trial of Nicholas, Chesterfield and Dyson that Nicholas handed a gun to Chesterfield moments before Chesterfield shot Key in the back of the head while Key sat in the back seat of a car on College Drive near Interstate 10 on June 30, 2012.
The prosecutor argued that Dyson directed Nicholas and Chesterfield to Key’s precise whereabouts.