Trial To Probe B.I.G. Slaying

Voletta Wallace, the mother of slain rapper Notorious B.I.G. (born as Christopher G. Wallace), appears during a news conference on Monday, June 20, 2005, in Los Angeles with her lawyer Perry Sanders Jr.
The mystery of who gunned down Notorious B.I.G. — and why — has frustrated and fascinated the hip-hop world for eight years. With FBI and police investigations failing to net even a suspect, a swirl of theories implicated corrupt cops, gang hits, bicoastal beefs — or all three at once. None have been provable, so far.

The case finally is in court, as a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the New York rapper's family against the city of Los Angeles and its police department. On Tuesday, a nine-person jury was selected. The panel is expected to at least get a peek inside the so-called murder book showing whom the Los Angeles Police Department interviewed and which leads were followed.

Both sides also presented opening statements, and B.I.G.'s mother Voletta Wallace dabbed at her eyes with a tissue as an attorney recounted the night of her son's death.

Christopher Wallace was killed shortly after midnight March 9, 1997, on a Los Angeles boulevard after someone in a dark sedan fired seven shots into his sport utility vehicle while both cars were stopped at a light. Wallace was heading to a hotel following an awards show after-party.

The suit claims LAPD officials covered up a former officer's involvement in the slaying and ignored a systemic problem of potentially dangerous moonlighting. The family claims a number of off-duty officers associated with gang members while providing security for Death Row Records, home of Wallace's West Coast rival, Tupac Shakur.

Shakur was slain on the Las Vegas Strip six months before the 24-year-old Wallace was killed, and the two are forever linked in hip-hop culture.

Both savored the good life but were obsessed with death. Shakur flaunted bullet wounds and rapped of dying young. Wallace, aka Biggie Smalls, titled his 1994 debut "Ready To Die" and posed for the cover of his posthumously released second album, "Life After Death," leaning on a hearse dressed for his own funeral.

Wallace was discovered by then-rising producer Sean Combs, now known as P. Diddy. Combs groomed the baritone rapper for a mainstream audience through dance-happy samples, guest spots on R&B songs and even a collaboration with Michael Jackson.

But a dark rivalry was forming outside the spotlight. A murky series of conflicts erupted in the mid-1990s between Combs' New York-based Bad Boy Entertainment and Los Angeles-based Death Row, led by Marion "Suge" Knight.

It began after Shakur survived a 1994 shooting at a New York recording studio; Wallace and Combs had been nearby and Shakur blamed them for it. Assaults continued as each company purportedly linked up with rival street gangs — Bloods for Death Row, Crips for Bad Boy.