July 6, 2005

Murky L.A. rapper death case ends in mistrial

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A court case intended to shed light
on the murky 1997 murder of rap star Notorious B.I.G. was
declared a mistrial on Wednesday after a series of false
starts, anonymous tips, misplaced files and retractions.

U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper informed lawyers
that she was declaring a mistrial in the wrongful death lawsuit
brought by the family of Notorious B.I.G against the city of
Los Angeles, assistant L.A. city attorney Don Vincent told

The family had claimed in a civil lawsuit that a Los
Angeles police officer played a role in the 1997 shooting death
of the rap star after he attended a music industry party and
that the city's police department then tried to cover it up.

No one has ever been charged with the killing of B.I.G,
born Christopher Wallace, whose death has widely been
attributed to a long-running turf war between East and West
Coast rap record labels.

Wallace was killed six months after Tupac Shakur -- another
leading rap star of the 1990s -- was shot and killed in Las

The two killings have spawned books, a movie and various
conspiracy theories involving gang rivalry and feuding between
New York-based Bad Boy Entertainment and Los Angeles-based
Death Row Records.

Vincent said he had been informed by the court that the
judge had declared a mistrial and that the written order would
be issued on Thursday.

Judge Cooper had expressed concern on Tuesday that the Los
Angeles police department (LAPD) had withheld documents from
the court, including indications that a jailhouse informant
claimed to have information linking a disgraced police officer
at the center of a 1998 LAPD corruption scandal to the rapper's

The trial started on June 21, but the jury heard only three
days of evidence, much of it contradictory. One of the main
witnesses -- a former Death Row Records bodyguard and FBI
informant -- retracted statements that another former LAPD
officer worked secretly for the record label.

Lawyers for the city of Los Angeles had argued that members
of B.I.G's family were trying to collect money from the city
despite a thorough investigation by the police and the FBI that
resulted in no criminal charges.

Vincent said it was unclear from the mistrial ruling
whether the judge would order a new trial or whether lawyers
for the family could amend their case against the city of Los