• Notorious B.I.G.s family to renew lawsuit (MSNBC)

    LOS ANGELES - Relatives of slain rap star Notorious B.I.G. vowed Thursday to renew their wrongful death suit against the city of Los Angeles after a judge declared a mistrial in the case and accused police of concealing evidence.
    In her court order halting the trial, which began June 21, U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper said previously undisclosed documents implicating two former police officers in the rapper’s 1997 shooting death were found days ago in police possession as the result of an anonymous tip. Much of the material turned up in the desk or cabinet of LAPD Detective Steven Katz, the lead investigator in the murder, who testified in a recent deposition that he forgot the papers were there, the judge wrote.

    In a scathing rebuke, Cooper said she found Katz’ explanation for the oversight “utterly unbelievable.” “The detective, acting alone or in concert with others, made a decision to conceal from the plaintiffs in this case information which would have supported their contention that (ex-officer) David Mack was responsible for the ... murder,” Cooper wrote.

    She said the newly disclosed documents also establish links in the slaying to former LAPD officer Rafael Perez, who was the central figure in a 1998 corruption scandal in the LAPD’s Rampart Division. Attorneys for the city said they were surprised by the revelation but said material at issue was of questionable value in the case.

    Nevertheless, Cooper ordered the city to reimburse the family of Notorious B.I.G., whose real name was Christopher Wallace, for legal costs incurred of police “misconduct.”

    Wallace’s relatives have said they brought their suit to shed light on the murky circumstances surrounding his unsolved murder, which has been widely attributed to a long-running feud between East and West Coast rap record labels. The family’s lawyer, Perry Sanders, said their case, when renewed, would be expanded to probe what he called “the real motivating factors” behind the Rampart scandal.

    “Little did we know at (the start of the trial) what dark secrets lurked in the desk drawers of homicide detectives,” he said. “It is a sad day to see that Rampart still apparently plays such a significant role in unsolved crime.” Sanders added that he intended to seek a deposition from Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton in the case.

    The rapper’s mother, Voletta Wallace, denied assertions by city lawyers that the suit was motivated by money. “It was about honesty, it was about integrity, it was about cover-ups,” she told reporters.

    LAPD spokesman Paul Vernon said Bratton welcomed the mistrial, looked forward to the case returning to court and agreed that the newly discovered documents should have been turned over sooner. But he said Bratton disagreed with the judge’s “conclusions about any type of a deliberate cover-up.”

    Wallace was gunned down six months after Tupac Shakur, another leading rapper of the 1990s, was shot to death in Las Vegas. The Wallace family has contended that Mack was tied to Shakur’s music label, Death Row Records, and arranged for a college friend to shoot Wallace — who was signed to rival Bad Boy Entertainment — in retaliation for Shakur’s slaying.

    The newly found documents centered on police interviews with a jailhouse informant, a onetime cellmate of Perez, who reported Perez had told him about his and Mack’s involvement with Death Row Records and their activities at the scene of Wallace’s slaying, according to the judge.