Tory Lanez has filed a motion for a new trial after being found guilty of shooting music superstar Megan Thee Stallion on a California curbside in July 2020. Lanez’s lawyers Jose Baez and Matthew Barhoma cite multiple grounds in the new paperwork filed late Wednesday, including a claim that the judge “erroneously allowed” jurors to view a September 2020 Instagram post from Lanez’s personal account claiming Megan’s now-estranged best friend Kelsey Harris was not the shooter.
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The filing, obtained by Rolling Stone, includes a declaration from Lanez’s content creator, Joshua Farias, in which Farias claims that he was managing Lanez’s Instagram at that point and was the one who replied “that’s not true” to a comment on The Shade Room’s account stating, “People saying Kelsey shot her.”
Lanez’s attorneys allege prosecutors ambushed them with the Instagram post mid-trial, and that the judge should not have blocked the post because the defense team did not have sufficient time to figure out who wrote the reply. His lawyers claim the post amounted to an apparent admission by Tory that Kelsey didn’t fire the gun. His whole defense, meanwhile, was that Kelsey fired the shots that wounded Megan – an allegation Kelsey and Megan adamantly denied in trial testimony.
“The court erred on numerous questions of law in allowing the People to introduce this post, depriving defendant of a fair trial,” the new motion reads. “The only acceptable remedy for this miscarriage of justice is a new trial.” Lanez, whose legal name is Daystar Peterson, was convicted of all three charges against him and is facing up to 22-years in prison at sentencing. This motion for a new trial was expected after Peterson dropped his original defense attorney, George Mgdesyan, following his conviction, and enlisted new legal representation.
At a hearing in early January, Peterson’s new lawyers — including the storied hip-hop lawyer David Kenner — successfully lobbied the judge to delay Peterson’s sentencing until April so they could review trial transcripts and prep a motion.
Along with the motion, Peterson announced his legal team would undergo a few more changes, telling Rolling Stone, “Due to a scheduling conflict, David Kenner will no longer be a part of my defense team. I would like to thank Mr. Kenner for his hard work and wise counsel. Jose Baez will continue to represent me as first chair and Matthew Barhoma as second chair.”
The motion for a new trial also claims that prosecutors unfairly “painted defendant as a gun-wielding career criminal.” It claims that during the December trial, prosecutors “revealed their true motive” for introducing a shirtless photo of Peterson when they asked a witness if he had seen “the big gun that Tory has tattooed at the center of his chest.” Peterson’s lawyers argue that trial references to his tattoo and music “deprived” him of the “due process safeguards” in a new California law that seeks to exclude “creative expression” evidence that might lead to racial bias. Peterson’s legal team said the disputed evidence led to “improper consideration of criminal propensity based on his ‘gangster’ rapper persona.”
The new law, AB 2799, took effect nine days after Peterson’s conviction.
“Ironically, defendant’s tattoo was an homage to Tupac Shakur. Mr. Shakur used his music and tattoos to discuss socio-political issues affecting the Black community in the nineties,” the new filing states. “Mr. Shakur carried the same AK-47 tattoo on his chest as a symbol of Black unity and the fight against racism.” Peterson’s lawyers also argue the court “impermissibly chilled” his right to testify by ruling that if he testified, the state could introduce his rap lyrics and a music video under cross-examination. The video, for the 2022 track “Cap,” shows Lanez sharpening a bloody cleaver before using it on what looks like a horse leg.
“I got to watch Tory drop music videos chopping up horse legs and people laughing at it, like that’s okay,” Megan testified during her turn on the witness stand.
The new defense filing claims Lanez had a right to “exercise” his right to testify without such impeachment evidence because the California legislature “had already deemed” it “more prejudicial than probative” with the passage of AB 2799, even though the new law hadn’t taken effect yet. Prosecutors are expected to file a reply to the new motion ahead of a planned hearing on the matter now scheduled for April 10. While Lanez’s sentencing is scheduled for the same date on the court’s calendar, sources say an agreement is in place to push sentencing to a later hearing.
The details in the new motion echo reports of Peterson’s frustration with how his trial unfolded. As Rolling Stone previously reported, a source close to Peterson said the singer wanted to take the witness stand and plead his case directly to jurors, but was ultimately dissuaded by Mgdesyan — a decision Peterson eventually came to regret. (Megan, in contrast, did testify during the trial.)
Though Peterson may have been frustrated with Mgdesyan’s decision, taking the stand would have been risky. Prosecutors said they were ready to present plenty of impeachment evidence against the singer beyond the music video and lyrics. This potential evidence included Peterson’s alleged assault of musician August Alsina in September 2022 and even Peterson’s alleged “lies about how tall he is,” Deputy District Attorney Alexander Bott told the court at the time.