Lil Boosie raised his right fist in the air, signalling a victory, as a jury acquitted him of first-degree murder on Friday (May 11) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Surrounded by throngs of family, friends and supporters inside the courtroom, Boosie was found not guilty of the murder-for-hire plot in the October 2009 killing of Terry Boyd. Outside the courthouse, supporters danced, clapped and cheered upon learning the verdict. One car circled the surrounding blocks, blaring Boosie’s hit, “Set It Off,” through its open windows.

The rapper’s music became part of the case when, in a controversial decision, the court allowed Boosie’s lyrics to be presented as evidence on Wednesday (May 9), Day 5 of the trial. The jury heard the song, “187,” in which Boosie raps, “Yo Marlo/He drive a Monte Carlo/That bitch gray, I want that nigga dead today.”

The prosecution claimed “Marlo” was a reference to alleged killer Michael “Marlo Mike” Louding. According to computer forensics expert Konstantinos Dimetrelos, who examined Boosie’s hard drive, the verse was recorded less than an hour before the murder.

But it wasn't enough for the jury to convict Boosie of murder. The 12 jurors deliberated for an hour, before declaring Hatch not guilty.

The Baton Rouge rapper isn't a free man just yet, though. He still has to serve out an 8-year prison term on drug charges at Louisiana State Penitentiary. But compared to the life in prison he was facing if convicted for first-degree murder, Hatch and his family are pleased.

“It’s a joyful time,” said Boosie’s wife, Walnita Decuir, as she hugged friends and made phone calls to others about the trial’s outcome Friday.

Decuir is the mother of three of Boosie’s seven children. She said her kids — ages 10, 3 and 2 — are all aware of the trial and understand what was happening.

She said it’s been two years since she’s spoken to Boosie. Her children sometimes have trouble coping with not seeing their dad, she said, and “there have been times when they cried for him.” But her oldest has followed in her father’s footsteps to make sense of it all.

“The 10-year-old, she does a lot of rapping, so she uses that to express how she’s feeling,” Decuir said.

That daughter is Ivonia Hatch, who made news last year when she released her own freestyle, “Daughter of a King and Queen.” She also joined her father in supporting U Hatin? University, a program seeking community success through uplifting people and eradicating bullying and violence.

Lance Silver, chairman of U Hatin?, was among the revelers outside the courthouse. He said the verdict was just a reiteration of what Boosie’s friends and family already knew.

“We knew the entire time he was innocent. It never fit his character,” Silver said of the murder charges.

Silver also called the use of Boosie’s lyrics in the case “very offensive” because “those lyrics were generic and they had no significance to the case.”

The celebratory atmosphere following the verdict was starkly different than the somber tone that pervaded the courthouse all morning.

The hallway was packed with far more spectators than the courtroom could even occupy. When police and sheriff’s deputies indicated the doors would soon open, the crowd swarmed, prompting loud commands of, “Y’all get back!” from the officers.

Those forced to sit and wait were visibly upset.

“You see how they treat us? Talking to us like we got no sense,” one man said about police.

As the courtroom awaited the verdict with baited breath, the room remained tensely quiet, the silence only occasionally broken by a cooing baby. Some supporters closed their eyes and whispered prayers.

Before the jury entered, Boosie’s lawyers warned the crowd: “When they read the verdict, nobody say anything.”

Once Boosie was cleared of the charges, he raised his fist briefly before his legal team surrounded him, rubbing his back for support. The rapper hugged each lawyer as the courtroom emptied.

Outside, his attorney, Jason Williams, told reporters that the truth was the most important part of the case, and he never doubted that Boosie would be found not guilty.

Williams explained the defense’s decision not to call any witnesses to the stand during the trial.

“We didn’t have to call a single witness because every single witness that testified helped the case of Torence Hatch,” he said.

He added that he didn’t think the racial make-up of the jury — 10 African-Americans and two Caucasians — had any bearing on the verdict reached.

Most Boosie supporters said they stayed strong through the seven-day trial with certainty of his innocence.

“Obviously when your life is on the line, you can’t be overconfident,” Silver said. “But he was feeling very confident about it because he knew he was innocent. We do not expect him to get into trouble ever again.”

Hip-hop hopes not.—Ryan Buxton