On February 1, a Philadelphia judge granted a stay of execution to Christopher “Cool C” Roney. The 36-year-old MC had been scheduled to die by lethal injection on March 9 after being convicted in the January 1996 killing of Philadelphia policewoman Lauretha Vaird during a bank robbery. Locked up since his October 1996 conviction, Cool C holds the dubious distinction of being the first and only major rapper on death row.
Best known for his 1989 single “Glamorous Life,” Cool C first came to prominence in the late ’80s as a pioneer in Philly’s burgeoning hip-hop scene. Performing with his cousins Eaze and DJ Reece, C perfected his art rapping in the halls of Overbrook High School and at parties at Wynne Plaza and Wagner Ballroom. In 1987, he recorded “Juice Crew Dis” for local independent label Hilltop Hustlers Records, and on the strength of that track and two subsequent singles, landed a contract with Atlantic Records. Cool released two full-length albums for Atlantic, 1989’s I Gotta Habit and 1990’s Life in the Ghetto. He put his solo career on pause in ’93 to form C.E.B. with Eaze and another Philly MC, Steady B. That year, the trio released Countin’ Endless Bank on Ruffhouse/Sony Records. In 1995, Cool signed as a solo artist to Philadelphia International Records, and was in the process of recording an EP when he was arrested, along with Steady B, in January 1996. Initially Steady B confessed to being the driver in the robbery, but at trial his lawyers claimed his statements had been coerced by the police.
Today, Cool C sits in the State Correctional Institution-Greene in Waynesburg, Pa., awaiting the outcome of his postconviction litigation, which will determine whether his case is tried again. Although he won’t comment on the specifics of his case, Roney has steadfastly maintained his innocence throughout the trial and appeals process. “My mood remains strong, positive and faithful daily,” says C from death row. “My thought when the warrant was signed was, Why? I have more appeals; and they are my rights that I am going to fully exercise to get a new trial and acquittal, despite what media and society thinks.”
And while his case hasn’t garnered as much attention in the rap world as Stanley “Tookie” Williams’, Cool has nothing but love for the hip-hop community. “I love hip-hop, and it’s in me forever,” he says. “The golden era is gone, but that’s all right. I’m just thankful and proud that I was here to witness its birth.”
To contribute to Cool C’s defense, please contact:
Christopher Roney Defense Fund
c/o Willie & Barbara Roney and Eric Ponder
P.O. Box 28101
Philadelphia, PA 19131