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Deliberations begin Thursday at 9am EST in the Zaevion Dobson trial. Jurors in Knox County, Tennessee will finally get a chance to decide if Christopher Drone Bassett, 22, Kiplin Colbert Jr., 22, and Richard Gregory Williams, 23 are responsible for his death. Testimony showed that Dobson, 15, died bravely on Dec. 17, 2015, saving two friends from gunfire. Prosecutors said the defendants were among two carfuls of gunmen who opened fire as part of a spate of gang-related violence. The trio each face charges of first-degree murder, first-degree attempted murder, and employing a firearm during a dangerous felony. Bassett was also indicted on unlawful possession of a firearm. The jury can consider lesser charges if they find the defendants not guilty on a most serious count. For example, they can look at second-degree murder if reaching an acquittal on first-degree murder.
The defense wrapped up their brief case on Wednesday. They tried to puncture the prosecution’s argument that Bassett, Colbert, and Williams appeared in a rap video that proved their affiliation with the Bloods gang. They called up expert witness Dr. Erik Nielson. He wrote a Rolling Stones op-ed published in May about why rap lyrics shouldn’t be admissible in court.
“Rap artists are primarily young black and brown men, and research suggests this is important,” he wrote. “Multiple studies have demonstrated that when people are presented with identical lyrics containing violent content, they are significantly more likely to regard the lyrics as harmful and threatening if they are labeled as rap rather than country music, a traditionally white genre. Yet another study has shown that violent rap lyrics have the potential to exert a highly prejudicial impact on potential jurors.”
The defendants in this case are all black. Nelson, a literature professor at the University of Richmond, testified that there’s a distinction between real criminals and guys who put up a front for studio work. He said that the beat in the defendants’ music video was ripped off from another song.
In closing arguments, the prosecution said Dobson’s death was part of a spate of gang-related violence, where the defendants accompanied a fourth man, Brandon Perry. Perry was shot and killed hours after Dobson passed away.
The defense said in closing that prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence to convict. Williams’ attorney Kit Rodgers said that not one of the state’s witnesses placed his client at the location of the 2015 shooting.
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