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Felon Released From Prison for 2 Days Now Accused of Killing Black Teen, Blames Crime on Rap Music


Michael Paul Adams

Many are reeling over the brutal stabbing death of Elijah El-Amin; the victim was a teenage boy who lost his life to senseless violence. 27-year-old Michael Paul Adams, a violent felon released from state prison two days earlier, reportedly admitted to the crime. As if the 17-year-old’s tragic death wasn’t enough, the case is making waves over the alleged killer’s explanation: Elijah El-Amin had been playing rap music, and that’s why he needed to kill him.

Surveillance footage reportedly shows Elijah walking into a Circle K convenience store shortly before Adams. A few seconds later, Adams lunged at El-Amin, stabbing him with a pocketknife. Al-Amin then ran out of the store and collapsed near the gas tanks. The teen victim was transported to a nearby hospital, and pronounced dead shortly thereafter.  Authorities say they found Adams covered in blood and admitting to having committed the crime.

When questioned by police, Adams said that rap music makes him feel unsafe, because he’d been previously attacked by people who listen to rap music, and because those who listen to rap are a threat to him and the community. According to police records, Adams admitted that he wasn’t threatened by Elijah El-Amin himself, but rather, that he was threatened by the music, which prompted him to be “proactive rather than reactive.”

Adams’s defense attorney, Jacie Cotterell, appears to be gearing up to assert a not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity plea to the crime.

Cotterell slammed Arizona’s corrections system, saying that her client had been, ”set up for failure,” because he wasn’t given the means to access mental health  services.  Adams had a lengthy criminal history prior to this incident, including non-violent offenses such as theft, shoplifting, drug possession, and disorderly conduct, as well as violent felonies including assault with a weapon and aggravated assault of a correctional employee.

Arizona Department of Corrections spokesman Bill Lamoreaux issued a statement that that Adams “was not designated seriously mentally ill.”

Adams is now being held on bond at the Maricopa County jail on suspicion of first-degree premeditated murder. Since Elijah El-Amin’s death, public debate has broken out over the appropriateness of mental illness as a defense in what appears to be a race-motivated crime. #JusticeForElijah is now trending.

Adam’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 15.

[image via Maricopa County Detention Center]

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos