Chris Darden Attorney For Nipsey Hussle Killing Suspect Steps Away

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The attorney representing the man accused of gunning down Nipsey Hussle said Friday he is withdrawing from the case, citing personal reasons.

Chris Darden, a former prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson trial, announced the decision in aFacebook postFriday morning, noting that he and his children had received threats after he took on the case.

“After centuries of a history of black men hung from trees without trial, or after the thousands of cases of black men tried, convicted and executed without counsel ... I cannot understand why in 2019 some people would deny a black man his 6th Amendment right to counsel of his choice,” he wrote. “Or why defending such a man should invite threats not only against me but against my children too.”

He told The Times outside a downtown Los Angeles courtroom that he has been defending accused criminals, including gang members, for two decades.

When asked why he took on the case of Eric Holder, who is accused in the fatal shooting of Hussle, he said it was personal. He went on to add: “I defend poor people — that’s all I do. And he’s definitely poor.”

Darden became an international name during Simpson’s so-called trial of the century in 1995, in which the former football star was acquitted of the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Lyle Goldman.

During the trial, Darden and defense attorney Johnnie Cochran clashed often in vitriolic and sometimes personal exchanges, particularly on issues of race, The Times reported that year.

Cochran and others criticized Darden, who is black, for being part of a prosecution team that, for a time, defended the reputation of Mark Fuhrman, a white LAPD detective key to the case who was later denounced as a racist for his repeated use of the N-word. Prosecutors ultimately repudiated Fuhrman, and Darden maintained that the former detective's views on race did not erase all the evidence against Simpson.

Darden wrote a book after the trial, "In Contempt," in which he criticized Cochran for inflaming racial passions in the trial. Cochran died in 2005.

In Friday’s Facebook post, Darden alluded to that experience.

“Just as they were in 1995-Cowards never change,” he wrote. “These days these cowards don’t send letters instead they sit anonymously behind keyboards threatening a man’s mother and children.”

In the years since, Darden has worked as a defense attorney in murder cases.

He questioned why the public has fixated on his role in the Nipsey Hussle case.

“Twenty-five years I’ve been defending criminal cases. Why is that so interesting?” he said. People, he said, want to know “how much I got paid” and “what my contract says.”

He said that he has been “quietly” practicing criminal defense. “I represent regular people,” he said. “He’s a regular guy, you know, Holder. He has the same rights as everybody else.”

Hussle, a celebrated rapper and community activist, was outside his shop on Slauson Avenue on March 31, when a man approached and opened fire.

Hussle was fatally wounded, and two others were also shot.

Police alleged Holder had gotten into a dispute with Hussle earlier in the day and returned to the Hyde Park storefront with a gun and started shooting.

He fled in a waiting car, police said. Graphic video from a surveillance camera shows a gunman walking up to Hussle and two other men in front of the shop. The gunman opens fire, and Hussle falls to the ground as the other men run from the gunfire.

Holder appeared in court Friday morning for a brief hearing, wearing a yellow jail shirt and blue pants, his wrists shackled to a chain around his waist.

A judge granted Darden’s motion to withdraw and assigned a public defender, Mearl Lottman, to the case. It’s unclear if Lottman will handle the case for the long term because he must first determine whether the public defender’s office has any conflicts.

The prosecutor, John McKinney, said he would provide Lottman with a list of potential witnesses so he can make that determination.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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