After just an hour of deliberation, the jury in the first-degree murder trial of Torrance "Lil Boosie" Hatch returned a unanimous not-guilty verdict this afternoon in Baton Rouge, Louisiana's 19th Judicial District Courthouse. The 29-year old rapper had been accused of paying $2,800 to Michael "Marlo Mike" Louding to kill Terry Boyd on October 20th, 2009.
"The state put on its best case, but all the evidence supported the defense – right down to the very last witness, Rochelle Wagner, the sister of Terry Boyd and the mother of [Hatch's] child," said one of Hatch's defense attorney's, Martin Regan. "She took the stand and said what everyone else reiterated: there was never any beef between [Hatch] and Terry Boyd."
The defense team was so certain of the weakness of the state's case that it took the unusual step of declining to call up a single witness. "Based upon the burden of proof lying with the state, the defense rests with the witnesses the state has put on," Jason Williams told the court yesterday, merely 10 minutes after the prosecution rested its case.
During three hours of kinetic closing arguments Friday morning, both sides levied ferocious salvos at one another that occasionally turned personal. "The state's whole case is about deception," Williams thundered. "They called [Louding] their ace in the hole. That's a poker term. This is all about their bluffing and their tricks. Their ace in the hole was a 17-year-old kid who was coerced into a testimony [since recanted] by detectives who claimed they had 'magic?"
The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Dana Cummings, attested that the state's case hinged upon both Louding's jailhouse confession and a litany of circumstantial evidence that included Lil Boosie's rap lyrics, tattoos, and phone evidence that placed Louding in the vicinity of Hatch's home before and after the homicide. Removed from their context and beats, she re-played a capella excerpts from Boosie's mixtape tracks, "187" and "Bodybag," during her closing arguments. A computer forensic expert testified earlier this week that the songs were recorded during the hours before and after the Boyd homicide.
In the moments leading up to the verdict, the packed courtroom crackled in apprehension as Lil Boosie's family members folded their hands and bowed their heads in prayer. A phalanx of heavily armed sheriff's deputies crossed their arms and glowered at anyone who dared break the silence. Then Boosie, the judge and the jury all filed in, wearing unreadable facial expressions. When the courtroom clerk read the "not guilty verdict," Boosie was heard exclaiming, "Thank God." Many of his family and supporters wept tears of joy. Judge Michael Erwin instructed observers to contain their emotions until they left the courthouse. The square in downtown Baton Rouge erupted into an impromptu celebration immediately thereafter. Throngs of supporters dancing, hugged, cried, and hollered to the heavens.