By Terri Vermeulen Keith
LOS ANGELES – A defense attorney for the man convicted of gunning down rapper Nipsey Hussle in front of the musician’s South Los Angeles clothing store said Thursday he plans to ask a judge to reduce his client’s conviction from first-degree murder to voluntary manslaughter.
Defense attorney Aaron Jansen told reporters outside a downtown Los Angeles courtroom that he will ask that the murder count be “reduced to voluntary manslaughter to be consistent with the other two verdicts” in which Eric Holder Jr. was convicted of attempted voluntary manslaughter — rather than the more serious charge of attempted murder — involving two other people who were injured in the March 31, 2019, shooting.
Deputy District Attorney John McKinney said he plans to object to the defense’s request, which is expected to be heard at a Dec. 1 hearing.
Holder is facing a potential life prison term, with sentencing set Dec. 19. Jansen has said the defense plans to present Superior Court Judge H. Clay Jacke with “substantial evidence relating to Mr. Holder Jr.’s mental health” and to file a notice of appeal.
The 32-year-old defendant was convicted July 6 of one count each of first-degree murder and possession of a firearm by a felon, along with two counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm.
Jurors also found true allegations that he personally and intentionally discharged a handgun and that he personally inflicted great bodily injury on one of the victims.
The prosecutor told jurors during the trial that the killing was “cold-blooded” and “calculated,” saying Holder had “quite a bit of time for premeditation and deliberation” before returning to the parking lot near Slauson Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard where the rapper was shot 10 to 11 times.
“Saying, `You’re through,’ before shooting him and shooting him a number of times … kicking him in the head, that’s personal … What makes this murder first-degree is premeditation and deliberation,” the prosecutor said.
“You can’t bring Nipsey back … But you can do justice. Please do justice,” McKinney told the panel shortly before the case was handed over to the jury.
Holder’s attorney conceded at the start of the trial that his client had “shot and killed” the rapper, whose real name was Ermias Joseph Asghedom. But he said the crime in which his client fired with one gun in each hand occurred in the “heat of passion.”
Holder had “no cooling-off period” after being “called publicly a snitch by someone as famous as Nipsey Hussle” nine minutes and 10 seconds earlier, the defense lawyer told jurors.
Holder’s attorney also contended that the case was “overcharged from the beginning,” and that the correct charge against Holder involving the rapper’s slaying should have been voluntary manslaughter — an option Superior Court Judge H. Clay Jacke told jurors that they could consider.
Jurors heard eight days of testimony during the trial, which was delayed for a day following what Holder’s attorney said was an attack on Holder in jail.
Jansen said his client lost consciousness after being attacked in a jail holding cell with other inmates while waiting to be taken to court. He subsequently underwent an MRI and required three staples to the back of his head, also suffering a swollen left eye and swelling on the left side of his face, according to the attorney.
Holder did not testify in his own defense.
He has remained behind bars since his arrest two days after the shooting. His attorney told jurors that he surrendered himself at a mental health clinic in Bellflower.