On Feb. 20, 1996, Snoop Dogg Dogg and his bodyguard McKinley Lee were acquitted of first-degree and second-degree murder charges in the 1993 shooting death of gang member Philip Woldemariam at Palms’ Woodbine Park in Los Angeles.
Jurors also acquitted the then-24-year-old rapper, whose real name is Calvin Broadus, and his bodyguard on one charge each of conspiracy to commit assault in connection with the death of Woldemariam in August 1993. However, the jury, which made up of five African Americans, five whites and two Latinos, deadlocked on a lesser count of voluntary manslaughter against each man, and on a charge against the rapper of conspiracy after the fact.
During the trial, prosecutors portrayed the killing as a cold-blooded murder, explaining Woldemariam was shot in the back and buttocks when he tried to flee from a confrontation with Broadus and Lee, according to the Los Angeles Times. Broadus and Lee’s defense lawyers argued that Woldemariam went for a gun in his waistband when Lee fired from the passenger seat of the Jeep. The defense team described Woldemariam as a hot-tempered gang member who was furious that the music maker had encroached upon his territory.
According to testimony from two of Woldemariam’s friends, several people had gathered outside of Broadus’ apartment and issues arose when someone in the group flashed a gang sign at Woldemariam and his friends as they drove by in a car. Woldemariam told the group they were in his gang’s territory and yelled expletives at the crowd. Some people got in Broadus’ Jeep and followed Woldemariam and friends Jason London and Dushaun Joseph for several blocks, ultimately turning into Woodbine Park to eat takeout food. Then the Jeep drove up and the passengers got into a verbal argument with Woldemariam. During the trial, Joseph testified that he saw Woldemariam reach for a gun before Lee fired the fatal shot. Joseph and London also acknowledged that as Woldemariam lay dying, they took his gun from him hoping that the rapper and his bodyguard would be convicted of murder.
During the trial, prosecutors called two dozen witnesses to the stand. The defense called only one witness, Joseph.
The jurors spent six days deliberating. Following the acquittal, Marcia Morrissey, who served as Broadus’ co-counsel, said, “We think the jury reached the absolute correct verdict.” She added, “We hope with further deliberations they will acquit on the other two counts. Clearly they are taking a long, hard look at the evidence and decided it was not sufficient.”
Broadus’ defense attorney David Kenner said: “We have a hard-working jury that worked their way through to a just conclusion.”
At the time, the Los Angeles Times reported that the jury foreman said that the jury took 15 ballots on the manslaughter charges and that the latest one ended in a 9-3 split. The foreman did not say whether the jury favored acquittal, conviction on manslaughter. The foreman also said the jury was deadlocked on the charge of conspiracy after the fact. The prosecution tried to argue that Broadus tried to destroy evidence in the Jeep Cherokee he was driving on the evening of the shooting.
According to Broadus, that after his acquittal, he no longer wanted to live the “gangsta” lifestyle, because he feared if he did, he would be killed or end up in prison.