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Judge sets May 8 hearing for Tory Lanez's new trial motion in shooting of Megan Thee Stallion
Prosecutors say they oppose any further continuances. "We want to make sure that Megan gets closure as quickly as possible," Deputy District Attorney Alex Bott said.
A judge will consider rapper Tory Lanez’s motion for new trial on May 8 after allowing Lanez’s lawyers extra time to add to their 84-page filing.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David Herriford scheduled this morning’s hearing on April 10 after Lanez’s lawyers said they wanted to supplement their motion, which asks Herriford to vacate his three felony convictions for shooting Megan Thee Stallion and order a new trial.
But Herriford revealed in court this morning that he never planned to consider the motion today. Rather, he announced that he’d scheduled today’s hearing to decide if Lanez’s lawyers would be filing a supplement.
Lanez’s lawyer Matthew Barhoma said and his co-counsel Jose Baez, the prominent criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida, agreed with prosecutors to file the supplement on May 1, and prosecutors will have until the close of business on May 3 to response.
“We discussed it, and we’re going to be filing, your honor, our supplemental, per our discussion,” Barhoma said.
Herriford scheduled the hearing for May 8 and said he’ll decide the motion then even if Lanez’s supplement hasn’t been filed. Baez, who joined the hearing via conference call, asked if it could take place on May 10, but Herriford said May 8 is the best day
Barhoma, a licensed lawyer in California since 2017, told Herriford the hearing should take three days: May 8-10. Herriford said he’ll consider an additional hearing day on May 9 if the hearing doesn’t finish on May 8.
Outside the courtroom, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Alexander Bott answered “no” when asked if he’s ever heard of a three-day hearing for a motion for new trial.
“I will say with confidence we’ll be done on the 8th,” Bott said.
Deputy District Attorney Kathy Ta told Herriford she and Bott object to any delays past May 8 because Megan Thee Stallion has a right as a victim to see Lanez sentenced in a timely manner.
Barhoma appeared to take issue with Ta objecting to future continuances, telling Herriford, “We also don’t anticipate any future continuances. We also believe my client’s been prejudiced. Believe me, the defense as well wants to move forward.”
“Alright, May 8 it is,” Herriford said.
Bott told reporters outside court, “We want to make sure that Megan gets closure as quickly as possible. … She wants to put an end to this chapter of her life.”
The attorneys were in court for about five minutes starting at 9 a.m. Lanez was brought in handcuffed and wearing his usual orange jail garb and black cap. His father, Sonstar Peterson, was in the gallery, as were other friends and supporters.
Judge Herriford’s handling of Lanez’s new trial motion is similar to his handling of Lanez’s trial in that he appears to be auditioning for a lead role in a “Parks and Recreation”-type show about an overburdened yet totally inept Los Angeles criminal court.
I first suspected something was up when I learned he wouldn’t be starting trial until 10:30 a.m. each day, as if jury trials should take secondary status to hearings involving lawyers who get paid hundreds of dollars an hour to make court their full-time jobs.
Then he never even started the trial at 10:30 a.m. It was always close to 11 a.m. or after, including the day Megan testified, which meant her testimony was broken up by the mandatory 90-minutes lunch break.
And the break happened right when she was getting to the entire reason everyone was sitting in Herriford’s courtroom, a.k.a. that time someone fired five rounds at her after she exited Lanez’s Escalade in a residential neighborhood about 4:30 a.m. on July 12, 2020, after leaving a gathering at reality star Kylie Jenner’s home. Lanez’s defense was that Megan’s now-former best friend, Kelsey Harris, is the one who actually shot Megan as the women fought over their shared romantic interest in Lanez.
Prosecutors’ evidence includes two post-shooting apologies from Lanez: One a phone call he made from jail to Harris, the other a series of texts he sent Megan after he was released from jail. (He was arrested on a gun charge the day of the shooting, but he wasn’t initially charged with assault because Megan told first responders she’d merely stepped on glass, even though she was hospitalized and underwent surgery to remove bullet fragments in one of her feet.)
Going into the trial cold, I was struck by what a source of extreme stress the case is for so many people. A judge allowing any trial to stretch on and on is a bad idea, but doing it with a trial that has so much vitriol and gossip surrounding it seems like an especially bad idea. Judge Herriford could have finished Lanez’s trial in four days if he kept normal trial hours.
Instead, he stretched it out so that Lanez was remanded about 3:20 p.m. on Dec. 23 after a jury convicted him of assault with a firearm, negligent discharge of a firearm and possession of an unregistered firearm. And Lanez’s father freaked out in the courtroom so loudly that every reporter sitting in the middle of it was seriously shaken up for hours and hours afterward. It was like a holiday present from Judge Herriford, who said exactly nothing when Lanez’s father erupted in his courtroom. (“THIS WICKED SYSTEM WILL NOT STAND!”) Instead, the judge retreated to his chambers as the young, overwhelmed sheriff’s deputies struggled to deal with the chaos.
So, given Judge Herriford’s track record of running trials as poorly as possible, it’s not surprising that he can’t seem to figure out this motion for new trial. But it was nearly unbelievable when he mumbled from the bench today that he actually never said last week that a supplement was coming, he only said one might be, and today’s hearing was to finalize whether one would be filed. Say what now? That sure didn’t come across clearly during last week’s hearing!
I asked a friend to dig out the Los Angeles Daily Journal’s latest profile on Herriford, which is from Nov. 4, 2020. Turns out it would cost $65 to pull up the full profile, so I told her to forget about it, but she was able to get this shot of the basics.
Herriford is a double Cardinal in that he earned both his bachelor’s and law degrees from Stanford University (just like Senior U.S. District Judge James Selna). He worked as an associate at Long & Levit LLP in San Francisco before becoming a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney in 1984. He was a prosecutor for five years, then spent a year at the firm before opening his own practice. He’d been a solo practitioner for 20 years when then-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him to the bench in 2010.
The good news with Lanez’s case is that Judge Herriford said today he will definitely rule on Lanez’s motion on May 8, and he actually seemed to mean it. Mark your calendars and stay tuned for my coverage. Lanez’s sentencing will be scheduled on May 8, assuming the motion is rejected.
Meanwhile, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for Lanez’s lawyers supplement. (You can read their original motion here. Prosecutors’ opposition is here.) The main arguments are about an Instagram comment they say prosecutors shouldn’t have been allowed to use as evidence, and about Herriford saying prosecutors could question Lanez about rap lyrics relevant to the case if he testified.
Barhoma and Baez haven’t said what their supplement will address, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to flesh out the argument that prosecutors called “fraud on the court.”
That’s regarding their argument that prosecutors violated Lanez’ 6th Amendment right to counsel through bribery allegations against his original lawyer, Shawn Holley, that they say drove her from the case. Prosecutors say the argument falsely represents Holley’s stated reason for not doing Lanez’s trial. Read more here.
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