Tory Lanez Denied New Trial Over Megan Thee Stallion Shooting – Billboard
Written by GRB on 09/05/2023
A Los Angeles judge is refusing to grant Tory Lanez a new trial after he was convicted last year of shooting Megan Thee Stallion in the foot, setting the stage for the rapper to be sentenced to as much as two decades in prison.
Attorneys for Lanez (real name Daystar Peterson) had called the case a “miscarriage of justice,” arguing that Judge David Herriford made numerous errors during a star-studded, two-week December trial that resulted in a guilty verdict. But prosecutors later called those claims “vague and unsupported” and urged the judge to uphold the jury’s decision.
At a hearing on Tuesday (May 9) in Los Angeles Superior Court, Judge Herriford sided with prosecutors and denied Lanez’s motion, according to a person with knowledge of the proceedings. Neither prosecutors nor Lanez’s legal team immediately returned requests for comment.
The ruling is not particularly surprising. Such requests for a judge to overturn a jury verdict are rarely granted, reserved for major revelations about procedural errors or withheld evidence. Similar arguments could still be successfully raised in a future appeal.
Tuesday’s decision clears the way for Lanez’s sentencing, in which he potentially faces up to 22 years in prison. It had originally been scheduled for January but was repeatedly delayed due to his request for a new trial. Sentencing is now expected within the next month but could be delayed again.
Lanez was convicted on Dec. 23 on three felony charges over the mid-2020 incident, during which the rapper allegedly shot Stallion (born Megan Pete) in the foot during an argument after a pool party in the Hollywood Hills.
The shooting happened in the early-morning hours of July 12, 2020, when a driver was shuttling Lanez, Stallion and her assistant and friend Kelsey Harris from a party at Kylie Jenner’s house. According to prosecutors, Megan got out of the vehicle during an argument and began walking away when Lanez shouted “Dance, bitch!” and proceeded to shoot at her feet.
Following the incident, Stallion initially told police officers that she had cut her foot stepping on broken glass, but days later alleged that she had been shot. Lanez was eventually charged with the shooting in October 2022.
During the blockbuster trial, Lanez’s lawyers made their best effort to sow doubt over who had pulled the trigger, painting a scenario in which Harris could have been the shooter. But a key defense witness offered only confusing eyewitness testimony, and prosecutors pointed to an earlier interview in which Harris pinned the blame squarely on Lanez. Stallion herself offered powerful testimony that Lanez had been the one to shoot her; neither Lanez nor the driver took the witness stand.
In a motion for a new trial filed in March, Lanez attorneys Jose Baez and Matthew Barhoma argued that Judge Herriford made numerous errors during the course of the trial. Among others, they said he should not have allowed jurors to see an Instagram post that appeared to undermine the rapper’s central defense that Harris actually pulled the trigger. In it, Lanez appeared to personally post a comment that such a suggestion was “not true.”
“The court erred on numerous questions of law in allowing the People to introduce this post, depriving defendant of a fair trial,” Lanez’s lawyers wrote. “The only acceptable remedy for this miscarriage of justice is a new trial.”
Lanez’s lawyers made numerous other arguments, too. They said that key DNA evidence had been mischaracterized and improperly admitted; that Lanez had been denied his right to counsel because his longtime attorney withdrew at the eleventh hour; and that prosecutors had run afoul of a new California law that bans the use of creative expression in criminal trials.
But prosecutors argued back last month that the request for a new trial was groundless. The Instagram comment was a “relatively insignificant piece of evidence,” they argued, among an “overwhelming” amount of testimony and other evidence showing that Lanez had been the one to shoot Stallion.
“The defendant’s brief is replete with colorful rhetoric and conclusory statements, but it lacks substance,” prosecutors wrote. “Despite being nearly 80 pages long, the defendant has failed to cite a single instance of error in the trial court.”
Following Tuesday’s decision, Lanez can still file an appeal of the verdict at a state appellate court. But such a challenge will face an uphill climb: In 2022, California appeals courts overturned a defendant’s guilty verdict in just 19% of cases.