Music producer and professional subject of controversy Suge Knight is back in hot water after being accused of a deadly hit and run in California. As so often is the case in a criminal trial, video of an alleged incident can be a crucial piece of evidence for the prosecution, defense, or both. In the video Knight appears to partially pull into a parking lot where he is confronted by a man known as Cle “Bone” Sloan. After what appears to be a scuffle, Knight backs his truck out of the parking lot and then accelerates forward, running over Sloan in addition to another man on the scene named Terry Carter. Sloan survived, Carter did not. Knight faces murder charges in California and the video of the incident may well have a significant impact on his trial.
While California law will vary from Florida, it is likely that Knight’s charges will be very similar to what he would face had his actions been committed in Florida. In addressing the most serious allegation only, Knight would likely be charged with second degree murder were his case situated in Florida. Second degree murder occurs when there is an unlawful killing of a human being when committed via act imminently dangerous to another with a depraved mind, lacking any real concern for human life but lacking the premeditation required for a first degree murder charge. While it is arguable the State could move forward on a first degree murder charge, it is unlikely premeditation was present. One could argue had premeditation been present, Knight would have just hit the individuals immediately upon his arrival at the scene rather than stop to speak. As to second degree murder, the charge will hinge on whether his actions in accelerating forward were done with a depraved mind, lacking a concern for human life.
So does the video lock the case down for the prosecution on a murder charge? Having dealt with similar issues, there is perhaps more to be told. No doubt Knight’s criminal attorney will point to Sloan appearing to attack Knight when the truck initially stopped at the scene. This would support an initial self-defense argument in that Knight was not the instigator of the physical contact. As we can see Knight’s truck then backs up, only to lunge forward, hitting the men. After some elapsed time a man runs over to Sloan and appears to take something from him. If it can be shown that this was a weapon (specifically a gun), Knight’s actions could be argued to have been in self-defense. Even if the item taken isn’t recovered, there is still room for argument by the defense. So what do we make of the car that travelled down the road Knight initially backed into, almost immediately after Knight’s truck lunged forward? The prosecutor will argue that this is evidence of a clear path allowing for Knight’s safe escape from a compromised situation. Was it really though? Knight’s criminal lawyer may argue that the car was accelerating away from the scene after being behind Knight. Depending on the actions of those in the car, Knight may have feared for his life in attempting to navigate his way from the scene in an alternate capacity than what he did. Regardless of the outcome of the trial, in my opinion this video will be a focal point of the trial and will be used by both the prosecutor and Knight’s criminal defense team. Time will tell as to who the jury agrees with.