Rap on Trial: the battle to keep the lyrics out of the courtroom

Musicians including Jay-Z, Kelly Rowland and Killer Mike are backing two US senators’ proposal to ban the use of rap lyrics as evidence in criminal trials.

“Rap Music Trial” lawofficially known as Senate Bill S7527, will protect artists and content creators “from prosecutors using their lyrics against them”.

Campaigners argue that using lyrics as evidence has “significant implications” for creative freedoms, freedom of expression and the right to a constitutional fair trial. Instead of referring to rap music as “an art form whose primary purpose is entertainment,” prosecutors have become “adept” at presenting the lyrics as “confessions to criminal acts.” ” or evidence of the defendant’s “knowledge, motives or identity in relation to the alleged crime”, says Rap on trial sitea legal guide for attorneys.

Law ‘Rap Music on Experiment’

According to research findings from Charis E. Kubrin, co-author of the Rap on Trial website, Charis E. Kubrin, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), rap lyrics can “trigger biases.” “.

The lyrics were “considered as dangerous, offensive, threatening, and literal when people say they’re rapping” than when told they’re in a country song, UCI website reported.

In an effort to prevent prosecutors from using such bias, New York senators Brad Hoylman and Jamaal Bailey introduced legislation last November that would block art created by defendants — including including rap lyrics – used as evidence against them in the courtroom.

Two Democrats pointed to the 2014 New Jersey Supreme Court ruling. In the “second case, it used to be considered”, washington articles reported at the time, the court ruled that rap lyrics should not be used as evidence against Vonte Skinner, who was found guilty of attempted murder in the 2005 shooting after verses that he wrote to be read to the jury.

“One wouldn’t assume that Bob Marley, who wrote the famous song I shot the sheriffactually shot a sheriff, or Edgar Allan Poe buried a man beneath his floorboards, as depicted in his short story Heart tells stories,“Justice Jaynee LaVecchia said.

Senators Hoylman and Bailey criticized the double standards imposed on rap music, which have been “under scrutiny for decades”.

They argue that “Rap is like any other creative expression,” but that “social scientists have linked anti-rap attitudes to racist behavior.”

Rap giants pay back

Rap stars including Jay-Z, Rowland, Killer Mike, Fat Joe and Robin Thicke signed a letter this month urging New York state lawmakers to support Senate Bill S7527.

The “literal” interpretation of rap lyrics effectively “denies rap music’s artistic status” and gives prosecutors a “dangerous advantage in the courtroom,” letter written by Alex Spiro , Jay-Z’s attorney, and University of Richmond professor Erik Nielson write, said, Author of Rap on Experiments: Race, Lyrics, and Sin in America.

“A long way to go,” said Spiro Rolling Stone magazine. New York State’s law change would “send a message that progress is coming,” he said, adding: “We expect it to be followed in many places.”

Down with UK drills

The use of art by defendants as evidence against them in a courtroom is also used in the United Kingdom.

According to Abenaa Owusu-Bempah, an assistant professor of criminal law at the London School of Economics (UK) (LSE).

An Owusu-Bempah analysis of 30 appellate convictions reported between 2005 and 2020 pointed to “deliberate tactics” by prosecutors “based on stereotypical stories to construct false assumptions.” case theory,” she wrote in an article on Blog LSE.

Separate research from the University of Manchester identified more than 60 cases between the mid-2000s and 2020s in which rap music was used by prosecutors “as autobiographical confessions of crimes, threats of violence or evidence related to a crime.” gang ties”, reports DJ Mag.

According to Eithne Quinn, a senior lecturer at the university and head of a research project called Prosecuting Rap: Criminal Justice and UK Black Youth, there has been an increase in the use of alleged evidence such as This coincided with the growing popularity of drill music. Expressive Culture.

Quinn told the magazine that “the high moral panic of the maneuver and the violence, with all its might and baggage,” is being “pulled into the courtroom.”

Quinn was appointed the group’s rap expert in the 2020 murder case of drill rapper Unknown T (real name Daniel Lena), who was charged with a fatal stabbing at a New Year’s Eve party in North London two previous year. In what DJ Mag described as “an unusual move”, the trial judge dismissed the prosecutor’s attempt to use the rapper’s lyrics as evidence as “highly prejudiced” and attempt to “strengthen a weak or flawed case”.

The magazine reported that it was not clear that T was “acquitted of all charges”, but “others are not so lucky”.

https://www.theweek.co.uk/news/crime/955521/rap-on-trial-battle-stop-lyrics-courtrooms Rap on Trial: the battle to keep the lyrics out of the courtroom

Fry Electronics Team

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