LAS VEGAS - A Nevada judge set bail Tuesday at $750,000 for a former Los Angeles-area gang leader charged with orchestrating the killing of hip-hop legend Tupac Shakur in 1996, saying he can serve house arrest with electronic monitoring ahead of trial on a murder charge.
Court-appointed attorneys for Duane "Keffe D" Davis told The Associated Press after the judge's decision that they believe Davis can post that amount. They had asked for bail of not more than $100,000 and noted for the judge that the demands of preparing a defense based on two decades of evidence may require a postponement of the current June trial date.
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson told reporters that he expects Clark County District Judge Carli Kierny will hold a "source hearing" to determine whether money posted for bail is legally obtained. The judge did not set a new trial date but called for a status check Feb. 20.
Prosecutors Binu Palal and Marc DiGiacomo argued Tuesday that Davis has never left gang life, that his 15 years of admissions about his role in Shakur's killing show he is guilty of murder, and that a jailhouse phone call in October suggested he poses a threat to witnesses.
Side-by-side photo of Duane "Keefe D" Davis (L) and Tupac Shakur (R). (Davis photo by JOHN LOCHER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) (Tupac photo by Barry King/WireImage/Getty Images)
"There is one constant," Palal told the judge. "Mr. Davis has consistently admitted to being architect of the murder."
DiGiacomo called Davis "a very, very high danger to the community."
The judge, in her ruling, acknowledged that Davis "made a living talking about his past life as a leader of the South Side Crips," a street gang in his hometown of Compton, California, "and also the killing of Mr. Shakur in graphic detail."
Arroyo and co-counsel Charles Cano argued that police and prosecutors could have arrested Davis 15 years ago but didn't, and that the prosecutors were wrong with their interpretation of the jail telephone call and a list of names provided to Davis' family. The defense lawyers said it is Davis and his family who are at risk.
Arroyo and Cano said their 60-year-old client is in poor health after battling cancer, which is in remission, and said he would not flee to avoid trial.
They also downplayed evidence against Davis as the product of tales told by witnesses with gang backgrounds that make them not credible, and noted the prosecution lacks evidence, including the gun and the car involved in the September 1996 drive-by shooting that killed Shakur.
Arroyo focused Tuesday on what he called "the obvious question" dating to 2008 and 2009 — when Davis talked with police in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. He went on to write a 2019 tell-all memoir and began giving interviews on social media in which he described his role as gang leader and "shot-caller" in Shakur's death.
"If his guilt is so overwhelming, what’s been happening for 15 years?" Arroyo asked in court Tuesday. "Why did we wait 15 years to make the arrest?"
Davis was arrested Sept. 29 outside his home in suburban Henderson, which Las Vegas police had searched in mid-July. He pleaded not guilty in November to first-degree murder and has been jailed without bail at the Clark County Detention Center in Las Vegas, where detainees’ phone calls are routinely recorded. If convicted at trial, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Arroyo argued Tuesday that his client's accounts in "the YouTube world" accentuated violence to attract viewers and make money.
"Conflict sells," Arroyo said. "They get on these interviews, they puff out their chest. They're trying to get clicks."
Prosecutors say Davis’ own words are strong evidence that he is responsible for the crime, even if he didn’t pull the trigger. DiGiacomo said other people who have described Davis' role in other media interviews, and to police, corroborate his accounts.
Davis is the only person still alive who was in the car from which shots were fired, mortally wounding Shakur and wounding rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight. Knight is serving 28 years in a California prison for an unrelated fatal shooting in the Los Angeles area in 2015.
Davis’ attorneys noted that Knight is an eyewitness to the Shakur shooting but did not testify before the grand jury that indicted their client.
Davis maintains he was given immunity from prosecution in 2008 by an FBI and Los Angeles police task force investigating the killings of Shakur in Las Vegas and rival rapper Christopher Wallace, known as The Notorious B.I.G. or Biggie Smalls, six months later in Los Angeles.
DiGiacomo and Palal say any immunity agreement was limited. Last week, they submitted to the court an audio recording of a December 2008 task force interview during which they said Davis was told that what he said in the room would not be used against him, but that if he talked to other people he could be in legal jeopardy.
Davis’ attorneys responded with a reference to the publication 12 years ago of a book written by former Los Angeles police Detective Greg Kading, who attended those interviews.
"Duane is not worried," the attorneys said, "because his alleged involvement in the death of Shakur has been out in the public since ... 2011."