LOS ANGELES — A man convicted of the 2019 shooting of rapper Nipsey Hussle is likely to face life in prison when he is convicted in a Los Angeles courtroom on Wednesday.
A jury in July found Eric R. Holder Jr., 32, guilty of the first-degree murder of the 33-year-old, Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist outside of Hussle’s clothing store, The Marathon, in the South Los Angeles neighborhood of where both men grew up.
Holder was also convicted of two counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter and two counts of assault with a gun for gunshots that hit two other men at the scene, who survived.
Sentencing was partially delayed to allow defense attorney Aaron Jansen to petition Superior Court Judge H. Clayjacke to reduce Holder’s conviction to manslaughter or second-degree murder, which the judge denied in December.
Jacke will have a wide range of options if he convicts Holder at Thursday morning’s hearing, but a murder conviction alone carries a 25-year life sentence. The other convictions and special sentencing circumstances found by the jury make it almost certain that Holder will spend the rest of his life in prison. Halter was not eligible for the death penalty.
“We hope that the fact that his killer is likely to be in prison for the rest of his life will bring a resounding peace,” lead prosecutor Assistant District Attorney John McKinney said after the verdict.
Actress Lauren London, who was Hussle’s partner and mother of his two young children, did not attend any part of the trial, nor did his relatives, and no one is expected to make victim impact statements as is the case with such hearings is often the case.
The evidence against Holder was so overwhelming — from eyewitnesses to local business surveillance cameras recording his arrival, the shooting, and his departure — that his attorney admitted at trial that he shot Hussle.
But Jansen argued to the jury that the heated circumstances of the shooting meant a lower conviction for first degree manslaughter was warranted.
The jury returned a verdict of first-degree murder after about six hours of deliberation.
Jansen said afterwards that he was “deeply disappointed” by the verdict, which they planned to appeal.
He managed a small victory for Holder by securing the attempted voluntary manslaughter convictions where prosecutors had sought attempted murder convictions.
The sentencing, originally scheduled for September but postponed at the request of the defense, ends a more than three-year legal saga and a trial often delayed because of the pandemic.
Hussle, real name Ermias Asghedom, and Holder have known each other for years growing up as members of the Rollin’ 60s in south LA. Both were aspiring rappers. But Holder never had the same success as Hussle, who would become a local hero and national celebrity.
A chance meeting outside of the marathon at a Hussle-owned mall led to the two men talking about rumors that Holder had acted as an informant for authorities. Jansen argued that public accusation of being a “snitch” by someone as prominent as Hussle created a “heat of passion” in Holder that ignited the shooting.
A woman who was with Holder that day took a picture with Hussle before becoming Holder’s unwitting getaway driver and was a key witness for prosecutors.
After years of dedicated work that earned him recognition in the underground, his nickname was both a nod to comedian Nipsey Russell’s name and a nod to the rush the future hip-hop star put into making music and selling CDs laid — Hussle had just released his major-label debut album and was earning his first Grammy nomination when he was killed.
A year after his death, he was mourned at a memorial in what was then known as the Staples Center and celebrated in a performance at the Grammy Awards, also attended by DJ Khaled and John Legend.
Follow AP Entertainment writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton