Rapper McKinley "Mac" Phipps says he's serving time for a murder he didn't commit, and numerous people not only believe him but are urging for his clemency via a petition to the Louisiana governor.
Huffpost Crime reports that in 2000, Phipps was a 22-year-old rising star from New Orleans, signed to Master P's No Limit Records, when he was arrested for shooting and killing Barron Victor Jr., 19, at a concert at Club Mercedes in Slidell, Louisiana. Phipps, also known by his stage name, Mac the Camouflage Assassin, was charged with first-degree murder, although there was no forensic evidence to support the charge. He was eventually convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
From day one, the case against Phipps has been riddled with controversy. Along with no forensic evidence, prosecutors failed to perform ballistics on what could have possibly been the real murder weapon. Instead, they focused on gathering up witnesses, many of which later said they were bullied into providing false testimony.
The star witness, Yulon James, who was at the club the night of the shooting, testified that she saw Phipps pull the trigger, something she later recanted. She admitted that the only reason she lied was because the parish district attorney's office, headed by DA Walter Reed, continuously bullied and threatened her.
"They stalked my house, they stalked my job and they stalked my family. The DA came over to my parents' house and told me I would have my baby in prison if I didn't testify."
James came forward with her story shortly after Reed's 30-year run as DA ended in 2015. Along with James, four other witnesses, identified as Dwight Guyot (the club owner), Jerry Price (the victim's cousin), Jamie Wilson (someone at the club), and Larnell Warren (Phipps' cousin), have all said that they were threatened by authorities or completely ignored.
Guyot said that when he told investigators he saw someone else shoot the victim, they seemed upset because it didn't go along with the case they were building against Phipps. In turn, Guyot claimed that he was threatened with life in prison if he didn't identify Phipps as the shooter.
"They was all over my a**. Luckily, I was arrested just days after it on a federal charge, because the state was trying to charge me and they were threatening me with life if I didn't testify against Mac."
Similar to James, Guyot came forward only after Reed stepped down from DA.
Several months after the shooting, Thomas Williams, who worked as a member of Phipps' security team, came forward and told police he was the one who shot Victor Jr. He claimed he acted in self-defense, but authorities found holes in his story and subsequently dismissed his admission and charged him with obstruction of justice.The prosecution also used Phipps' own lyrics against him.
During closing arguments of the trial, assistant district attorney Bruce Dearing said, "Murder murder, kill, kill, you f—k with me you get a bullet in your brain. You don't have to be a genius to figure out that one plus one equals two."
The problem, however, is that the lyrics were grabbed from different songs and combined to make it look different than what Phipps originally intended. According to Phipps, he was rapping about his father, who served time in Vietnam. In the song "Shell Shocked," the original lyrics are written as follows.
"Big Mac, that's my daddy, rotten dirty straight up soldier... Ya f—k with me, he'll give you a bullet in yo brain."
Advocates for Phipps are pushing strongly for his release.
The petition, found on Change.org, states, "We the undersigned support clemency for McKinley Phipps. We believe that the unique facts of his case, his record as an inmate, and his potential to contribute to society in meaningful ways if released make him an ideal candidate for clemency."In the meantime, Mac Phipps' lawyers are working behind the scenes to get him out of jail on time served after a recent attempt to negotiate his release based on the prosecution's illegal tactics was rejected. Although it wouldn't clear his name, he'll be a free man again, and his attorneys can work on a post-conviction appeal.
[Image via McKinley "Mac" Phipps, Jr. Page/Facebook]