LOS ANGELES >> A Los Angeles judge ruled today that grand jury transcripts in a murder case over the killing of rapper Nipsey Hussle will remain sealed, for now.
Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry ordered that the documents, which would give the first glimpse of the prosecution’s evidence against defendant Eric Ronald Holder, will remain under wraps for at least three more weeks while Holder’s lawyer expands her argument that they should be kept secret in the interest of a fair trial.
Perry rejected a motion from the Los Angeles Times, which moved for the transcripts’ immediate release, saying the law here favors the public’s right to know.
The grand jury returned an indictment May 9 charging Holder with the murder, attempted murder, and other felonies. He has pleaded not guilty. Transcripts of the proceedings, under California law, would have become public May 31, and The Associated Press and other media outlets sought copies.
But Holder’s lawyer Lowynn Young filed a motion to keep them under seal until after trial, arguing that their release could unfairly prejudice the public against Holder and taint potential jurors.
Young, a public defender who took over Holder’s case when high-profile attorney Christopher Darden stepped down, said she has yet to have access to most of the evidence, and that the documents’ release would give the public as much knowledge as the defense has. Holder, who is jailed as he awaits trial, sat with his lawyer at the hearing.
L.A. Times attorney Rochelle L. Wilcox said there was no way the pool of potential jurors in L.A. County would be tainted by the information.
“I can’t imagine that the publicity is likely to be so pervasive that it would not be possible to find 12 unbiased jurors,” Wilcox said.
She argued that the defense would have to meet a high standard of precedent to keep the documents under wraps.
“I’m not persuaded by that,” the judge said, adding that three weeks of “breathing room” for all involved was perfectly acceptable.
He asked the defense for a more detailed motion before another hearing June 27.
The judge also raised the possibility that the unsealing could jeopardize public safety.
“I understand it was a near-riotous situation the day of the shooting,” said Perry, referring to a spontaneous memorial that temporarily turned into a stampede when gunshots were heard, leaving nearly 20 people injured.
Wilcox argued that the circumstances are nowhere near that volatile.
Hussle, 33, was shot and killed outside his clothing store on March 31. Two other men were shot and injured. Holder was arrested after a two-day manhunt.
The prosecution, which has not revealed why it used a secret grand jury instead of a public preliminary hearing, supports at least a partial release of the transcripts, and doesn’t believe it would bias a jury.
“There have to be at least hundreds of thousands of people in Los Angeles who haven’t heard of Nipsey Hussle,” Deputy District Attorney John McKinney said.