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After Long Legal Fight, Rapper Meek Mill Is Granted A Retrial


In 2008, the rapper Meek Mill was convicted on drug and gun-related charges. He spent about 10 years on probation, and in the meantime, people raised a lot of questions about his original conviction. Yesterday an appeals court in Pennsylvania overturned it, and the three-judge panel said a retrial will probably lead to a different verdict. NPR's Colin Dwyer explains what happened here.

COLIN DWYER, BYLINE: For Meek Mill, and for tens of thousands of fans, activists and artists, this case was never just about him. It was also about what they call the nightmare of the criminal justice system. As Robert Williams - that's Meek's real name - says in an upcoming Amazon Studios documentary.


ROBERT WILLIAMS: I never really looked at it like a nightmare. I looked at it as real life for a black kid in America. You know what I'm saying? This is real life.

DWYER: Real life for him, back in 2009, looked like up to nearly two years in prison and another 10 on probation. In 2017, when he was sent back to prison for violating that probation, protests erupted in Philadelphia.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Free Meek Mill. Free Meek Mill. Free Meek Mill.

DWYER: Meek Mill's case became a kind of cause celebre, attracting the support of such high-profile artists as Jay-Z and Rick Ross. Now, after the appeals court ruling, the case could also have a much more tangible impact in Philadelphia.

KEIR BRADFORD-GREY: It could have a huge ramification on a lot of people's cases and the outcomes.

DWYER: Keir Bradford-Grey is a public defender and head of the Defender Association of Philadelphia. She says Meek's case was overturned because the one witness in his trial, a police officer, had engaged in criminal conduct that prosecutors never disclosed.

BRADFORD-GREY: District attorneys were told not to call this officer because he has serious credibility issues.

DWYER: They called him to the stand, anyway, without letting on about these doubts. Bradford-Grey says her office is now sorting through thousands of cases that may have been affected by similar disclosure failures. For Meek Mill, it means his conviction has been vacated. So has the probation violation that sent him back to prison. And the original judge, whose conduct was also questioned, has been pulled off his case.

Colin Dwyer, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.