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Lawyer Made Famous In O.J. Simpson Trial Steps Away From Nipsey Hussle Case

Christopher Darden, (left), is seen in Los Angeles County Superior Court with his now former client Eric Holder. Holder is accused of killing rapper Nipsey Hussle in March.
Patrick T. Fallon
Christopher Darden, (left), is seen in Los Angeles County Superior Court with his now former client Eric Holder. Holder is accused of killing rapper Nipsey Hussle in March.

An attorney who became a household name prosecuting O.J. Simpson for murder in the mid-1990s will no longer represent the man accused of killing beloved hip-hop artist Nipsey Hussle in March.

Christopher Darden, a longtime litigator and former attorney with the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, announced he was stepping away from the case, citing threats against him and his family.

In a Facebook post Friday, Darden said he was unsure if he would disclose "reasons for withdrawing" before later referencing the case that made him famous.

"Just as they were in 1995-Cowards never change. These days these cowards don't send letters instead they sit anonymously behind keyboards threatening a man's mother and children."

Darden played a central role in the Simpson case, dubbed the "trial of the century," where racial overtones permeated those court proceedings. At the time, Simpson was a prominent African American accused of killing his former spouse and her companion, who were both white.

Darden, who is also black, was labeled a traitor and a sellout for being on the legal team attempting to put Simpson behind bars.

He faced backlash once again. This time for representing the black man accused of killing Hussle outside the clothing store the Grammy-nominated artist owned in South Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Times reported Darden submitted paperwork to the court on Friday and left before his now-former client Eric Holder, the alleged gunman in the Hussle killing, appeared in court.

The Times continued:

"Darden filed his motion to withdraw and left the downtown Los Angeles courtroom before Eric Holder appeared, wearing a yellow jail shirt and blue pants, his wrists shackled to a chain around his waist.

"A judge granted Darden's request and assigned a public defender, Mearl Lottman, to the case. It's unclear whether Lottman will continue to represent Holder, because he must first determine whether the public defender's office has any conflicts."

In his Facebook post, Darden also referenced some of America's darkest history to argue that the right to legal counsel is a Constitutional right.

"After centuries of a history of black men hung from trees without trial, or after the thousands of cases of black men tried, convicted and executed without counsel... I cannot understand why in 2019 some people would deny a black man his 6th Amendment right to counsel of his choice.

"Or why defending such a man should invite threats not only against me but against my children too."

Darden vowed that threats will never deter him from his mission, adding "the struggle continues."

As for Darden's former client, Holder pleaded not guilty last month to charges that included one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder. He was ordered held on $5 million bond.

Hussle, who was born Ermias Asghedom, was killed in late March. As NPR reported, he was "widely respected in the hip-hop world, not just for his musical contributions but for the hustle ethic personified in his chosen stage name."

In his early years, Hussle came of age as a member of the Rollin 60s Crips street gang, but overcame those obstacles to earn a Grammy nomination last year for his Victory Lapalbum.

Hussle was 33 years old.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.