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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 June 2005, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
Rap shooting civil trial begins
Notorious BIG
Notorious BIG was shot dead in 1997
The family of rapper Notorious BIG, who was shot dead in 1997, have begun civil action against the city of Los Angeles.

His widow and mother are among family members alleging a police officer had a role in the rapper - real name Christopher Wallace - being shot.

Police closed an investigation into the death earlier this year, saying there was not enough evidence to prosecute.

Unconfirmed reports have said he was killed in retaliation for the death of rival rapper Tupac Shakur.

The killings were seen as the climax of the East and West coast rap rivalry between record labels in New York and Los Angeles.

Police moonlighting

The trial in Los Angeles opened with jury selection and opening statements from lawyers representing both sides.

The legal case said the LA Police Department ignored a systematic problem of officers moonlighting as security guards for record labels.

Faith Evans
Notorious BIG's widow Faith Evans was in court for the opening day

It also said off-duty officers associated with gang members while working for Death Row Records, which signed Tupac Shakur as one of its artists.

One line of testimony will be that officer David Mack arranged for a friend to kill Wallace on behalf of Suge Knight, the owner of Death Row Records.

Mack, who is serving time for a bank robbery, denies being involved in the shooting and is not named individually named in the action.

Wallace's family lawyer Perry Sanders said the LAPD is liable "for allowing officers to be doing off-duty work, for allowing them to associate with people they should be associating with".

But lawyer Vincent Marella, representing the city, said: "You will hear a lot of hearsay and supposition from incredible witnesses, unreliable informants.

"There won't be any believable evidence that will substantiate the theory that you heard."

The trial is expected to last up to a month, split into three stages.

Decide responsibility

Jurors will first be asked to decide whether David Mack was involved in the killing.

If they conclude that he was, then they must consider whether the LA Police Department and the city should be held responsible for an off-duty officer's actions.

Finally, if they hold the city responsible they must decide on the level of damages.

Although damages sought are unspecified it could be based on the loss of potential earnings from the rapper's career.

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