Jurors in a Columbus armed robbery and murder trial today got to hear an analysis of rap music videos they were shown.
Prosecutors showed the jury two YouTube videos featuring defendants Michael Jerome “Big Smoove” Johnson and Dimitrius Morris “Slim Deezy” Gordon, claiming the guns depicted are the same ones used in local armed robberies, and the performers act out robberies in a manner similar to the way actual robberies were conducted here.
The videos, still posted on YouTube, are titled “Hood Where I’m From” and “Go Hard, Go Crazy.” They were produced by Johnson’s music company RBN.
Among those pictured in “Hood Where I’m From” was Sidney Person, who has pleaded guilty to robberies in which Johnson and Gordon allegedly were involved. Person testified for the prosecution as it played the recordings Thursday.
He testified “Hood Where I’m From” was recorded in 2010, about two years before the string of robberies in which Johnson and Gordon are charged. The video shows Johnson wielding an automatic rifle, which Person thought was an AK-47.
The Columbus robberies were remarkable partly because witnesses in some of the cases said a tall, stocky robber carried what appeared to be an automatic rifle. Authorities maintain that robber was Johnson, the rifle being his “weapon of choice.”
After Person’s testimony, prosecutors called to the stand Chris Samra, an investigator for the district attorney’s office, who sifted through social media to find the recordings.
Samra was asked to interpret what he saw on the video, though defense attorneys objected he was no expert, and having only downloaded the videos from the Internet, he could not otherwise authenticate them.
A generation gap opened over the phrase “paper chase,” which was included in the lyrics. Samra said it means going after money.
Johnson’s defense attorney J. Mac Pilgrim asked whether the phrase as easily could refer to the movie “The Paper Chase,” a 1972 film about a Harvard Law School student.
That was before Samra’s time: “I have no idea about that movie,” he said.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Al Whitaker afterward asked Samra to tick through the similarities between the videos and the robberies: They involved gunmen wearing masks and hoodies – including a staged robbery in “Go Hard, Go Crazy” – and cash.
“They didn’t say anything about getting a law degree?” Whitaker asked in reference to “The Paper Chase.”
“They did not,” Samra replied.