Baton Rouge rapper Samuel “Mista Cain” Nicholas was found not guilty Friday night in the 2012 shooting death of an 18-year-old man and wounding of another man on College Drive near Interstate 10.
An East Baton Rouge Parish jury, however, convicted the accused triggerman, Chattley Chesterfield, 21, and an accomplice, Essence Dyson, 24, each of second-degree murder and aggravated battery.
The case involves the slaying of Jordan Key and attempted second-degree murder in the shooting of a 19-year-old man who was driving the car in which Key was a passenger.
Prosecutor Dana Cummings argued to the East Baton Rouge Parish jury earlier Friday that Nicholas, Chesterfield and Dyson — all members of what Cummings called the “Cain Music Mafia” — were on a “hunting expedition” on June 30, 2012, and their prey was 18-year-old Key.
“They were stalking him,” she said.
Nicholas’ attorney, Tommy Damico, called the prosecution of Nicholas a “witch hunt” and said the rapper was the target of that hunt. Damico argued prosecutors had tunnel vision when it came to the rapper.
“They’re so anxious to go after a named rapper,” he told the jury.
Cummings called that allegation preposterous.
“Why in the world would the District Attorney’s Office prosecute Samuel Nicholas if he’s not guilty? We wouldn’t,” she insisted to the jury. “This is not about rap. It’s about a group of people who got together to commit violence, to shoot an 18-year-old in the back of the head.” The shooting occurred about 2:30 a.m.
The month before Key was killed, an East Baton Rouge jury acquitted Torence Hatch, the rap artist then known as Lil Boosie, in an alleged murder-for-hire in Baton Rouge in 2009. The accused triggerman, Michael “Marlo Mike” Louding, was found guilty and is serving a life prison term.
Cummings argued Friday that Nicholas, while seated in the back seat of a car driven by Michael Francois, handed Chesterfield a gun and told him, “Go with your move.” Chesterfield, the front seat passenger, got out of the car at a traffic light, walked up to the car in which Key was riding in the back seat and shot him, she said. The driver of that car was wounded.
Chesterfield’s attorney, Gail Ray, called the shooting self-defense, alleging Key had shot at Chesterfield at some point in the past, causing Chesterfield to fear for his life.
“That is not self-defense,” Cummings argued. “He (Key) didn’t deserve to be murdered while he sat in a car at a traffic light.”
Key did have a gun at the time of the shooting, she noted.
Cummings said Dyson, who was driving a separate vehicle, alerted Chesterfield and Nicholas by phone minutes before the shooting that Key was in the area of the IHOP and Wal-Mart on College Drive.
Dyson was directly behind the car in which Key was riding at the time of the shooting, the prosecutor said.
Dyson’s lawyer, Harry Daniels, accused Cummings of trying to convict Dyson through guilt by association.
“Cain Music Mafia! Cain Music Mafia! She’s just trying to scare you,” he argued.
The murder weapon was found in a car that Francois, Chesterfield and Nicholas ditched, Cummings said, and DNA from Chesterfield and Nicholas was discovered on the gun.
Damico disputed Cummings’ DNA claim.
Francois, who was not prosecuted in the case as part of a deal with prosecutors, testified at the trial. Cummings said his cooperation helped put the pieces of the murder puzzle together and allowed others to be brought to justice.
Damico called Francois a con artist and said the convicted felon got “the deal of the century.”
“He lied and made up a story and scammed a deal,” Damico said. “They let a principal to murder off.”
Ray labeled Francois a “pathological liar.”
“I wouldn’t give somebody a parking ticket based on testimony like that,” she said, referring to the various versions he told police.
Cummings acknowledged Francois didn’t always tell the truth but said he had no reason to lie about Nicholas’ alleged participation in the crime.
“If he is going to lie on anybody, why would he lie on the head of this group?” she asked the jury.