LAS VEGAS (AP) — A former Los Angeles-area gang leader jailed in Las Vegas in the 1996 killing of hip-hop music icon Tupac Shakur has hired a private attorney who pointed Monday to what he expects will be a historic murder trial.
Duane “Keffe D” Davis dismissed court-appointed lawyers and hired veteran criminal defense lawyer Carl Arnold, who said in a statement that his office was "honored by the opportunity to represent Mr. Duane Davis in what will be one of the most historic trials of the century."
“We look forward to Mr. Davis being found not guilty at the conclusion of his trial,” the statement said, adding that Davis anticipates posting bail so he can help prepare his defense.
Robert Arroyo, one of Davis' former lawyers from the Clark County special public defender's office, said Monday that he and co-counsel Charles Cano wished Davis well and referred questions to Arnold.
Arnold has served during public fatality reviews as representative of relatives of people killed by police. He has also been sanctioned twice by the Nevada State Bar during 20 years of practice.
One, in 2018, was for failing to properly file documents in a defendant’s appeal to the state Supreme Court. The other, in 2021, was for failing to represent a defendant in Las Vegas Justice Court. Each time, Arnold received a written reprimand and was fined $1,500.
Davis, 60, and originally from Compton, California, is the only person still alive who was in the car from which shots were fired in the September 1996 shooting that killed Shakur and wounded 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 has for many years described his role in Shakur’s killing, although his defense attorneys have argued his accounts accentuated violence to attract viewers and make money.
Prosecutors say Davis incriminated himself as “shot-caller” in Shakur's slaying during accounts to a joint federal and Los Angeles Police Department task force in 2008; to Las Vegas police in 2009; in an interview for a BET documentary in 2017; in his own tell-all book in 2019; and in more recent interviews.
Arnold said his client “cannot be convicted solely on the basis of his confession,” and that prosecutors will have to provide corroborating evidence to prove Davis' guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Davis was indicted by a grand jury in Las Vegas and arrested in September outside his home in suburban Henderson. He has pleaded not guilty and remains jailed on $750,000 bail ahead of a Feb. 20 status check in the case.
If he posts bail, Davis will be on house arrest with strict electronic monitoring. It was not immediately clear if changing lawyers will delay his current trial date, June 3.
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.
Arroyo and Cano argued that police and prosecutors could have arrested Davis 15 years ago but didn’t, that he is in poor health after battling cancer, which is in remission, and that he would not flee to avoid trial.
His former lawyers also noted that prosecutors do not have the gun and the car involved in the Shakur shooting, and they downplayed the credibility of former gang members as witnesses against Davis.