Inside Louisiana Rapper Lil Boosie's Grisly Murder Trial

'He's to Baton Rouge what Tupac was to California'

May 9, 2012 5:20 PM ET
Lil Boosie attends the 2009 Ozone Awards in Houston, Texas.
Ben Rose/Getty Images

The murder trial against Baton Rouge, Louisana rapper Torrance Hatch, better known as Lil Boosie, is currently underway in the city's 19th Judicial District Courthouse. Hatch is charged with first-degree murder in the 2009 death of Terry Boyd.

According to opening statements delivered on Saturday afternoon by the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Dana Cummings, the killings were a $2,800 murder-for-hire ordered by Boosie and executed by his henchman, 17-year-old Michael "Marlo Mike" Louding. The defense alleges that the slaying was the work of a teen hitman with the mind of a maniac, a rogue gunman haunted by a demonic choir of voices hollering, "Kill." In an impassioned opening salvo, Jason Williams, one of Boosie's attorneys, steadfastly maintained his client's innocence, alleging that Louding acted only in concert with Michael "Ghost" Judson and Adrian Pittman. In the weeks before the slaying, Williams claimed, Boyd robbed Judson for $720, while Pittman allegedly harbored a long-time grudge against Boyd.

Williams also argued that Boosie is being unfairly persecuted for his gangsta rap lyrics, which are laced with accusations of racism aimed at law enforcement officials, including Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III.

It was half past midnight on October 21st, 2009, when a 9 mm handgun fired six bullets through the front window of a house on Vermilion Drive. By the time police arrived to the residence in East Baton Rouge, 35-year-old Terry Boyd was dead, his body staining a brown leather couch the color of crimson. A neighbor spotted two men sprinting towards the train tracks near the residence of Ben Hawkins, where Boyd had been staying ever since he completed a five-year stint at the Winfield correctional facility, just one month prior. Boyd left behind a disposable camera, $402 in cash and a bloodstream spiked with morphine, marijuana, and codeine.

With no DNA evidence or eyewitness to the shooting, the prosecution is hinging its case around a taped jailhouse confession from Louding and telephone records that trace him to Boosie's recording studio during the hours before and after the murder. Also presented as evidence: a tattoo that Louding allegedly received two weeks after the murder – a depiction of an AK-47 accompanied by the phrase, "Yo Boosie. Who's Next?" – and the lyrics to Boosie's songs "187" and "Bodybag," which Cummings says were recorded on the night of the murder.

According to Cummings, the motive for the murder stemmed from a letter that Boosie received claiming that Boyd was going to "jack and slap him." The defense maintains that no such letter exists and that Boosie and Boyd had an amicable relationship, noting that Boosie had a child by Boyd's sister.

Louding's nickname derives from The Wire character Marlo Stanfield, known for his homicidal tendencies and his knack for eluding police. The state has charged Louding with five other killings over a 14-month spree, including that of Michael "Ghost" Judson, who allegedly paid Louding to murder Chris "Nussie" Jackson (a rapper with scathing diss songs about Boosie), and Darryl "Bleek'' Milton, a longtime friend of Boosie's. The defense team is pointing to the latter homicide as proof that Boosie had no control over Louding, who had "run amok." Boosie is only charged in connection with Boyd's murder.

Over several hours of pitched testimony on Monday, Louding denied his and Boosie's culpability in the Boyd murder. Bound in chains and clad in a candy-striped orange and white jumpsuit, Louding blamed his jailhouse confession on "crooked cops," who allegedly threatened him with lethal injection and the incarceration of his mother and stepfather. During one dramatic turn, Cummings and the court forced the shackled Louding to display his "Yo, Boosie. Who's Next" tattoo before the jury, despite the fact that Cummings already had blown-up photos of the tattoo by her side. Louding also alleged that his confession was coerced by interrogators who had claimed that Boosie had put a $25,000 bounty on his head.

After Louding's testimony, police Sgt. Chris Johnson took the witness stand and denied making any threats towards Louding. Defense attorneys pointed out that the confession represented only a small fraction of the hours that police had spent interrogating Louding on May 14th and May 17th, 2010. According to police, only Louding's confession was taped. During several hours on the stand, Johnson repeatedly denied telling Louding that Boosie had put a hit out on him. But during the videotaped confession, Louding is distinctly seen exclaiming, "That dude want to kill me? He's getting out now?" on camera. 

"We haven't seen a smoking gun yet, and the defense is doing pretty well in rebutting the charges against Boosie," Kenneth M. Willis, a Baton Rouge and New Orleans-based criminal defense attorney who's been watching the proceedings closely, tells Rolling Stone. "It's going to come down to whether the jury believes Louding's recanting his earlier taped statement and whether the prosecution can successfully tie [Boosie's] lyrics into his intent to commit a murder-for-hire. Right now, rap is on trial, Boosie's rap music is on trial, and to me, it looks like a long shot that he'll be convicted."

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