By TINA DAUNT, TIMES STAFF WRITER
November 29, 1995
[caption id="attachment_1003" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Mug Shot of Snoop Doggy Dogg"][/caption]The defense in the Snoop Doggy Dogg murder trial completed its opening statements Tuesday, portraying the rapper's bodyguard as a family man who was merely doing his job when he shot and killed a hotheaded gang member who was looking for a fight after seeing Snoop on his Westside turf.
"That shooting is completely consistent with self-defense," defense lawyer Donald Re told the jury.
What's more, Re said, police rushed to judgment when building their case, considering only one scenario: That the rapper, whose real name is Calvin Broadus, and bodyguard McKinley Lee followed, taunted and gunned down Philip Woldemariam at a Palms park in 1993 as he was trying to flee.
"You have heard the police investigators have made mistakes," Re said. "The biggest mistake that police made in this case was they closed their eyes to the truth."
The defense told jurors that Lee shot Woldemariam because he pulled a handgun from his waistband and possibly shot it at the vehicle carrying Lee, Broadus and at least one other person.
The soft-spoken attorney told jurors that police accepted without question the statements of two of the victim's friends, who initially said Woldemariam did not have a gun when he was killed. The friends later admitted that they had taken a weapon from Woldemariam as he lay dying in a carport near the park.
Although Lee, 26, talked to police voluntarily, Re told the panel, detectives did not believe his story and concluded that the shooting was first-degree murder instead of self-defense.
Re said Lee was not a gang member but an Iowa-bred weightlifter and security guard who was trying to provide for his wife and baby. He was hired in 1993 as Broadus' bodyguard.
"He was not in a gang, he was not of this 'street mentality,' whatever that is," Re said. "Mr. Lee had no reason to shoot Mr. Woldemariam except in pursuit of his job. No one is happy about that."
He added: "Had he not fired that shot, either Mr. Lee's or Mr. Broadus' family would be here grieving today."
David Kenner, who represents the 24-year-old rapper, sought to portray Woldemariam as man with an uncontrollable temper, a man who easily became angered when someone invaded the territory of his gang, the "By Yerself Hustlers."
"The very nerve of Mr. Broadus to move into that area was such an offensive act to Mr. Woldemariam that he went on a mission to let these people know that this was his area," Kenner said. "When they wouldn't bow down, he became hotheaded, temperamental and confrontational. . . . And the events that happened happened."
Kenner told jurors that Woldemariam had been convicted twice of weapons offenses, including discharging a firearm on a schoolyard and carrying a loaded weapon on the Blue Line train.
Although prosecutors acknowledged in their opening statements Monday that Woldemariam was a gang member, they said that his lifestyle does not excuse his murder. They said there is no reliable evidence that Woldemariam had pulled out his gun before he was shot.
"The evidence of self-defense in this case is contrived," co-prosecutor Ed Nison said.
On Tuesday, after the defense completed its opening remarks, prosecutors called their first witness to the stand. The witness, a man who lives in the area where the shooting took place, told jurors he saw Broadus and Lee drive by in their vehicle with "menacing" looks on their faces.
"They were mad-dogging us," said witness Cesar Serrano, who said he saw the rapper and his bodyguard just minutes before the shooting occurred.