A SELF-confessed LA gangster pleaded not guilty to the murder of Tupac Shakur at his arraignment on Thursday morning – despite boasting many times of his role in killing the rap icon.
But ex-Compton Crip Keefe D, whose real name is Duane Davis, will not face the death penalty if he is convicted for being a central figure in the murder of Tupac in Las Vegas 27 years ago.
Davis made his official plea for the first time in front of Las Vegas District Court Judge Tierra Jones.
He will go on trial for one count of murder with the use of a deadly weapon with a gang enhancement.
Davis was provided with a public defender after failing to agree a deal with famed Las Vegas attorney Ross Goodman, who represented him in the delayed arraignment two weeks ago.
Goodman attended the hearing beforehand, spending 10 minutes with Davis while he waited in a holding area before the judge began the daily proceedings.
The hearing began without Davis in the courtroom.
He was led separately, in handcuffs and leg shackles, into the courtroom 14 minutes after 17 other defendants in front of a packed public gallery of the courtroom.
Davis is understood to be in protective custody for his safety.
Davis, 60, dressed in a blue Clark County Detention Center jumpsuit, acted nervously during the six-minute hearing.
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When the judge asked if he had been able to retain counsel, Davis, who looked slimmer in his face than a month ago, shifted around and replied: "No, ma'am."
The judge then asked the public defenders' team to choose who would represent him.
Two lawyers, public defenders Robert Arroyo and Charles Cano, stood next to Davis and confirmed they would be his counsel.
Judge Jones then noted that the district attorney did not plan to pursue the death penalty if he is found guilty at trial.
Concerned, Davis interrupted the judge, asking for clarification.
When Judge Jones explained that Davis did not face capital punishment, he appeared relieved and quietly sighed.
By Davis' admission, when speaking to a police officer after his arrest, Tupac's murder is "the biggest case in Las Vegas history."
If convicted, the Compton-raised drug dealer could be sentenced to 30 years in jail.
During the hearing, the judge asked Davis if he had an education. He mumbled: "I did a year of college. UCLA."
He confirmed his full name and age and denied being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The bald-headed criminal, who has a grey beard, was the only defendant to stand behind the plaintiff's desk and was at times nervously swaying, shifting his feet from left to right.
He turned at one moment to smile and give a thumbs up to three people gathered in the gallery.
Judge Jones moved the case to a different department to move the trial process forward. Davis did not apply for bail at the arraignment.
The murder trial will take place in 2024 and will likely take several weeks.
Before the hearing ended, Davis announced to the judge that he planned to get Goodman "back on board."
The judge confirmed Davis was within his rights to make that decision as the case proceeded.
HIP-HOP ICON SHOT DEAD
Hip-hop legend Tupac, 25, was fatally shot four times in a drive-by shooting close to the Las Vegas Strip in September 1996.
For nearly 30 years, no one was arrested for the crime as rival gang members from the Crips and Bloods set, as well as other key witnesses, refused to talk, investigators said.
However, that changed when Davis confessed several times in interviews and a memoir about his role in the killing of Tupac with other gangsters.
Detectives at Metro Police and the district attorney built a case that a Las Vegas grand jury felt was strong enough for Davis to be charged with murder.
In his memoir Compton Street Legend, Davis wrote about how he helped secure a gun to murder Tupac as revenge for the rapper beating up his cousin Orlando "Baby Lane" Anderson after a Mike Tyson fight at the MGM Grand in September 1996.
He detailed how he helped coordinate a team of fellow Los Angeles gangsters to hit and kill the rap icon and his Death Row record label boss, Suge Knight.
In a confessional passage, Keefe threw the Glock pistol in the back of a Cadillac, where his nephew Anderson and another gangster sat.
Recently, one of Tupac's mentors opened up on how Davis should be convicted of the assassination it will not answer many questions surrounding the death.
Leila Steinberg, Tupac’s first manager, lifelong close friend, and mentor, also claims that Davis was not the only figure involved in the killing of the star in 1996.
However, she stops short when asked if P Diddy could have been a factor, even though Davis has made unsubstantiated claims about being paid for the drive-by murder.
Diddy has denied any involvement in the murder of Tupac.
Asked whether a jail sentence for former Southside Crip Davis would be justice, she replied: “Is it justice?
"Yeah, somewhat. But, you know, Keffe D lived his life for the last 27 years. There is some relief, but it’s complicated.
“He wasn’t the only one involved. It’s going to take some years for this to play out. Does it make me feel better?
“Not really. I didn’t have some sense of relief or of feeling better. I want justice. I believe in justice, so yes, I think it was important.
"It’s important that these next few years play out, but it didn’t make me feel any better, or whatever I thought maybe I would feel.”
Steinberg opened up on Davis' case on the Allison Interviews podcast, saying she believes the accused killer is not the only person who may have a case to answer for the murder in 1996.
"One hundred percent, yeah, on every side of everything," Steinberg said.
"It’s kind of amazing it went this long without it coming out. People always tell on themselves. The truth always finds the light. There are definitely plenty of people who knew, and there is also the role of law enforcement.
"It was in Vegas. There’s cameras everywhere. How do you have such a high-profile city, and no one knows or sees anything?”
In recent years, Davis has touched on his relationship and friendship with rapper, actor, and entrepreneur Diddy – real name Sean Combs.
In one interview, the 60-year-old alleged hip-hop star Diddy orchestrated and paid $1 million for the assassination.
Davis has repeatedly claimed that the former Bad Boy Records CEO asked him to "take out" Tupac and Knight.
Steinberg, who shied away from naming those who she suspects of being potential co-defendants, did not react to Davis' claims about Puffy.
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“Oh… that’s the kind of stuff I can’t even comment on, even if I have a thought or a belief. I just… I don’t, um, think that my opinion needs to be in any of that… stuff," she said.
Las Vegas investigators have not named Diddy as a suspect in Tupac's murder.
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