LOS ANGELES - The man convicted of gunning down rapper and community advocate Nipsey Hussle and injuring two other men in South Los Angeles is expected to be sentenced at a later date following yet another postponement Monday.
A judge rejected a defense bid to have a first-degree murder conviction reduced to second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge H. Clay Jacke also denied a defense motion for a new trial for Eric Holder Jr., whose sentencing was scheduled for Feb. 22, 2022.
In July, Eric Ronald Holder Jr. was convicted of first-degree murder, two counts each of attempted voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm involving two other people who were injured in the March 31, 2019, shooting, along with one count of possession of a firearm by a felon. Jurors also found true allegations that he personally and intentionally discharged a handgun and that he personally inflicted great bodily injury on one of the victims.
Holder's attorney argued during the trial that the shooting was carried out in the "heat of passion," and did not rise to the level of first-degree murder. He argued that at most, Holder committed manslaughter.
Jurors began their deliberations on Friday. In closing arguments Thursday, a prosecutor urged jurors to convict Holder of first-degree murder for a "personal" attack on Hussle outside the musician's clothing store near Slauson Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard.
A defense attorney, meanwhile, countered that the government had over-charged his client -- whom he argued had acted out of "impulse and rashness" after being accused of snitching.
Holder, 32, was charged with murder for the killing of the 33-year-old rapper, whose real name was Ermias Joseph Asghedom.
When the trial began, defense attorney Aaron Jansen conceded that his client "shot and killed" the rapper, but said the crime in which his client fired with one gun in each hand occurred in the "heat of passion."
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Holder's attorney also contended that the case has "been over-charged from the beginning," and that the correct charge against Holder involving the rapper's slaying should be voluntary manslaughter -- an option that Superior Court Judge H. Clay Jacke told jurors earlier that they could consider.
One of the rapper's wounds -- caused by a bullet that entered through the rapper's right abdomen -- severed his spinal cord and would likely have caused paralysis in the lower extremities if he had survived the shooting, the medical examiner testified.
During the defense's portion of the case, private investigator Robert Freeman told jurors that being called a snitch could put a gang member at risk of being beaten or killed. He noted that it would be more dangerous for an accusation about snitching to be made against someone in public where others could hear it and that something said by someone with a high status within a gang is "almost gold" on the streets.
Freeman, a former Los Angeles police officer who acknowledged being terminated from the force while he was still on probation, also told jurors that the firing of two guns -- one in each hand that Holder allegedly wielded during the shooting -- would lessen the accuracy of the shots. He noted that a two-handed grip on a gun is the best way to shoot with accuracy.
Holder was not called to testify in his own defense.
After Hussle's death, thousands of people were on hand in April 2019 for a service in his honor, with singer Stevie Wonder and rapper Snoop Dogg among those paying tribute to him.
In a letter that was read during the service, former President Barack Obama wrote, "While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and see only gangs, bullets and despair, Nipsey saw potential. He saw hope. He saw a community that, even through its flaws, taught him to always keep going."
The rapper-entrepreneur was posthumously honored with two Grammy Awards in 2020 for best rap performance for "Racks in the Middle" and for best rap/sung performance for "Higher."
CNS contributed to this report.