Published May 04, 2010
LOS ANGELES -- The murder of an Atlanta rapper at a crowded, upscale mall was a callous, calculated shooting by a man who then calmly ordered a valet to get his car and drove around the body, a prosecutor told jurors Tuesday during the start of the trial in Los Angeles.
Deputy District Attorney Robert Grace told jurors Aubrey Louis Berry fired eight shots at rapper Roderick Anthony Burton II, known as Dolla, and his friends in the valet area of Beverly Center.
Grace said the 21-year-old Burton was struck by four bullets as he tried to run from Berry. Three of the shots hit Burton in the back, Grace said in his opening statement.
After the shooting, Berry drove around Burton, who lay dying, Grace said.
"Roderick was senselessly gunned down by Aubrey Berry in a hail of gunfire," Grace said.
Berry, 24, has pleaded not guilty to one count of murder and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon. His attorney Howard Price has said Berry acted in self-defense.
Burton and Berry had been involved at a fight less than two weeks earlier at a strip club in Atlanta, where both men lived. Berry feared the rapper, said Price, who planned to introduce some of Burton's lyrics as evidence to show the rapper cultivated a violent image.
Berry watched quietly Tuesday as Grace described the shooting.
At several points, the prosecutor used his hands to simulate a gun and showed jurors how witnesses described Berry methodically firing at Burton and others.
Burton was touring and working on his first studio album under a contract with a major label at the time of his death, Grace said. He was considered a protege of Akon and released two songs with the hip-hop star.
With the jury absent, Superior Court Judge David S. Wesley denied a motion by Price to tell jurors Burton had been arrested in Georgia in 2008 for carrying a concealed weapon. Price said Burton missed a court date, and there was a warrant for his arrest at the time of his death.
The judge said the arrest didn't demonstrate that Burton has a "character trait for violence," and that Berry didn't know about the case at the time of the shooting.
Price was expected to lay out Berry's defense when the proceedings resumed later in the day.
The trial was expected to last at least a week.