A Fulton County prosecutor cautioned jurors Tuesday to be prepared for hostile witnesses in the trial of the man accused of fatally shooting up-and-coming rapper Slim Dunkin.
“I have no idea what they’re going to say,” assistant district attorney Linda Dunikoski said. “The code on the street is the code of silence. You don’t make yourself a witness even if your best friend is shot.”
Some of the witnesses called by the prosecution Tuesday admitted they lied to Atlanta police about what transpired on Dec. 16, 2011 at the Memorial Drive recording studio where Dunkin, born Mario Hamilton, was killed. Others said simply, and repeatedly, they didn’t recall anything about the shooting.
Only one witness, Kenny Battle, a friend of Hamilton’s, linked the defendant, Vinson Hardimon, to the shooting — albeit indirectly.
“I chose (Hardimon) because that was the only familiar face,” Battle said, referring to a line-up of potential suspects presented to him by investigators.
Dunkin was a member of the Bloods street gang, Dunikoski acknowledged in her opening statement. Besides serving as a talking point for the defense, Hamilton’s gang affiliation, and the “no snitching” code that accompanies it, would likely lead to uncooperative witnesses on the stand, Dunikoski said.
Moreover, the scene of the crime was scrubbed prior to the arrival of Atlanta police, she said. And Dunikoski said she has “no idea” why Hardimon — charged with murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony — shot Hamilton.
“This is not a whodunit,” Dunikoski said. “This case is very simple. It’s about a man who brought a gun to a fistfight he started.”
Hardimon, aka Young Vito, turned himself in to Atlanta police 10 days after the shooting, saying he feared retaliation. His attorney, Max Hirsh, told jurors his client’s life was threatened by Hamilton, who allegedly rapped, moments before his death, “I’m gonna put two (bullets) in his head,” pointing at Hardimon.
The two scrapped after that, and Hirsh said Hamilton had a gun in his waistband.
“I’m going to kill him,” he quoted Hamilton as saying. “He busted my lip.”
“(Hardimon’s) life has just been threatened by a known gang member with a reputation for fighting and violence,” Hirsh said.
His client was aiming for Hamilton’s thigh when he fired at the 6-foot-8 rapper, Hirsh said, but “unfortunately he hit him in the abdomen.” The protege of Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka Flame bled to death and was pronounced dead soon after at Grady Memorial Hospital.
Hamilton’s father disputed the characterization of his son as a gang member.
“The painting of my son is an inaccurate picture,” Marc Hamilton said. “You can take a character flaw and make him look villainous. He had a strong personality and loyalty that people found very attractive.”
The trial resumes Wednesday.