Man's 'Olive Garden' Rap Lyrics Lead to Murder Conviction

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on February 21, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Rap lyrics served as evidence in a murder trial stemming from a fatal altercation at an Olive Garden in South Carolina.

Gonzales "Snoop" Wardlaw, 22, was sentenced to life in prison Friday in connection with the murder of 21-year-old Thomas T. Hoefer after a pot deal went awry. He boasted about the murder in rap lyrics.

The lesson here is clear: never underestimate the power of words -- or hubris.

Murder at Olive Garden

Wardlaw went to an Olive Garden parking lot to purchase pot from Hoefer (probably followed by a basket of bottomless breadsticks). But instead, he fatally shot Hoefer in the chest, reportedly because he was unhappy with the quality of the weed, The State reports.

During the course of the investigation, authorities uncovered very telling rap lyrics in Wardlaw's home that ultimately tied him to the shooting.

Those lyrics included said "hit 'em in his chest" and "caught 'em at da Olive Garden." The second verse continued, saying that "the penalty for slighting the author is death."

The Lyrics Are Not Hearsay Evidence

While it may seem surprising, the lyrics don't actually present hearsay issues because they involve an admission by a party-opponent.

An admission by a party-opponent is a statement made by someone who is a party to the case and is offered as evidence against that party. Here, Wardlaw admitted the lyrics were his, he was a party to the case, and his rap lyrics were being offered as evidence against him. A party admission is considered non-hearsay.

To be admitted as a party admission, the statement needs to be harmful. It's pretty safe to say that "hit 'em in his chest" and "caught 'em at da Olive Garden" are harmful statements, considering the victim was fatally shot in the chest... at an Olive Garden...

With a lyrical smoking gun, it's quite literally a form of poetic justice.

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