The Burlington County prosecutor's office has not yet decided whether to try, for the fourth time, Vonte Skinner, an aspiring rap artist whose trial on an attempted-murder charge ended with a deadlocked jury Friday.
"We are considering whether to retry the defendant on the charge of attempted murder," Joel Bewley, the prosecutor's spokesman, said in an e-mail Monday.
It was Skinner's third trial on charges he shot and paralyzed an acquaintance in Willingboro on Nov. 8, 2005 over a drug deal. Skinner's first jury also was hung, but his second trial in 2008 led to a conviction and 30-year sentence that was overturned by the state Supreme Court last summer. The justices ruled the use of his violent rap lyrics as evidence against him was prejudicial, especially since they had been written years before the incident and were not deemed relevant.
In his most recent trial, Skinner, 36, of Burlington Township, was convicted of two counts of aggravated assault.
State Superior Court Judge Jeanne T. Covert set sentencing for May 1. Each count carries a term of five to 10 years. Skinner would have faced 10 to 20 years on the attempted murder charge.
The trial began March 3 in the Mount Holly courthouse and featured some early drama.
When Lamont Peterson, 32, formerly of Willingboro, testified that Skinner shot him multiple times, Skinner sprang to his feet and began swearing and yelling for Peterson to "stop lying." In 2005 Peterson was shot multiple times in the head, neck and torso at close range and is confined to a wheelchair.
When Skinner's appeal reached the high court, it was among about 20 across the country dealing with the admissibility of rap lyrics at criminal trials. A notebook containing 13 pages of handwritten lyrics had been seized from Skinner's car after he was arrested.
In the lyrics Skinner depicted violent shootings, including one that said: "Yo, look in my eyes. You can see death comin'. Look in my palms, you can see what I'm gunnin' with."
Skinner is being held in the Burlington County Jail.