Rappers get arrested all the time. Some get busted for minor things like having weed on the tour bus, others get locked up for more serious offenses, like murder. Snoop Dogg is one of those rappers who almost faced a lengthy prison term for a murder.
In 1993, Snoop Dogg heard a disturbance outside of his LA apartment. His friend, Sean Abrams was arguing with a group of gang members. Snoop and his bodyguard at the time, McKinley Lee went outside and the argument ended. It was stated, that later that day Snoop, Lee, and Abrams saw the group of men at Palms Park and another altercation broke out leaving Philip Woldemariam dead from a gunshot. Although McKinley Lee was responsible for firing the shot, Snoop and Abrams were also charged with first and second-degree murder. After a brief period of hiding, Snoop turned himself in after that year’s MTV Music Video Awards. Charges against Abram were dropped while Snoop and Lee posted bail for $1 million each and were placed on house arrest for two years until the trial began.
The killing happened months before Snoop released his debut album, Doggy Style. The publicity of the case boosted album sales to over five million copies. One of the most popular singles from the album is “Murder was the Case.” Snoop was quickly becoming a huge name in Hip-Hop. When the trial began in ‘96, Snoop’s celebrity status made it a high profile case and his gangster rap persona painted him as guilty. The case further instigated the argument of gangsta rap contributing to real-life violence and crime.
Snoop and Lee hired defense attorney, Johnnie Cochran to represent them. Cochran previously represented O.J. Simpson a year before in a very similar case and won by pushing the court to acquit Simpson. Cochran was a celebrity in his own right and was seen as invincible in the courtroom. During the trial, the prosecution called 12 witnesses, while Cochran utilized only one. Cochran also brought up the issue of the police “losing” crucial evidence. The issue of the police destroying and hiding evidence has been a long exposed truth, that helped O.J. Simpson get off. We see the same thing still happening today. In the recent case of Alton Sterling, the police stole the surveillance tape from the store where Sterling was killed. During Snoop’s trial, Woldemariam’s bloody shirt, a bullet, and a shell casing mysteriously went missing while in the possession of the LAPD.
Four months after the trial began, Snoop and McKinley Lee were both acquitted of murder on February 21, 1996. Lee claimed self-defense and was off the hook. Snoop had to tangle with more legal issues when the court tried him on voluntary manslaughter and accessory to murder charges, which ended in a mistrial. Fans and curious minds will get to relive the trial again soon. Reelz television network will revisit the trial on their show Rich and Acquitted, which is scheduled to air in September.