One of the murkiest rapper murders of the 1990s finally came to court yesterday (June 21) in Los Angeles, eight years after a series of shootings and assaults widely attributed to a turf war between E

One of the murkiest rapper murders of the 1990s finally came to court yesterday (June 21) in Los Angeles, eight years after a series of shootings and assaults widely attributed to a turf war between East and West Coast rap record labels.

Tight security, including metal detectors and guards, marked jury selection and opening statements in federal court in Los Angeles in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the city of Los Angeles by the family of Notorious B.I.G. The family says a police officer played a role in the rapper's 1997 death.

Notorious B.I.G., born Christopher Wallace, was shot to death in March 1997 after attending a music industry party in Los Angeles. No one has been charged with his slaying, which came six months after Tupac Shakur -- the era's other leading rap artist -- was shot and killed in Las Vegas.

Shakur's murder has also gone unsolved but the two killings spawned books, movies and conspiracy theories involving gang rivalry and feuding between New York-based Bad Boy Entertainment and Los Angeles-based Death Row Records -- two of the biggest rap labels.

The civil lawsuit filed by B.I.G's family claims a rogue ex- LAPD officer, David Mack, who is now serving a prison term for robbery, planned B.I.G.'s murder on behalf of Death Row owner Marion "Suge" Knight in retaliation for the murder of his protege Shakur. Lawyers for B.I.G's family alleged a friend of Mack carried out the shooting.

Rob Frank, a lawyer for B.I.G's mother and widow, said in opening statements that Mack was a "Death Row record label associate" as well as a member of the notorious Los Angeles street gang the Bloods.

Frank said the case, expected to take about four weeks, would show that Los Angeles police "allowed cops to be involved in criminal activity" and "to associate with gangsters."

But Vincent Marella, lawyer for the city of Los Angeles, told the jury the case was peppered by "incredible witnesses and unreliable informants."

Marella said family members were trying to collect money from the city despite a thorough investigation by police and the FBI that resulted in no criminal charges against anyone. "We submit that there won't be any believable evidence that will support the theory you heard," Marella said.


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