NY Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Ban Prosecutors From Using Rap Lyrics as Evidence – NBC New York

Two New York lawmakers need prosecutors to cease utilizing lyrics of rap artists in opposition to them within the courtroom, citing freedom of inventive expression and the way there are sometimes preconceived notions concerning the style.

Sen. Bran Hoylman and Sen. Jamaal Baily of New York Metropolis launched their so-called “rap music on trial” laws on Wednesday to the Senate. It comes almost two years after Brooklyn rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine was sentenced to two years in jail for a number of counts of racketeering, firearms offenses and drug trafficking.

The Democrats claimed that prosecutors used 6ix9ine’s music to expose his entanglement with the road gang 9 Trey Gangsta Bloods – a transfer that has put him in danger behind bars. 6ix9ine, whose actual identify is Daniel Hernandez, stated he determined to cooperate with prosecutors after the racketeering indictment naming him as a gang member.

Hernandez may have been sentenced to 47 years in jail, however prosecutors really helpful a lesser sentence in trade for his cooperation.

“Artwork is inventive expression, not a blueprint of felony plans. But we’ve seen prosecutors in New York and throughout the nation attempt to use rap music lyrics as proof in felony instances, a apply upheld this 12 months by a Maryland court docket,” Hoylman stated in an announcement, referring to Hernandez and rapper Lawrence Montague whose lyrics was additionally utilized in his homicide trial of an Annapolis man.

Montague was sentenced to 50 years in jail for the deadly capturing and to be used of firearm.

An appeals court docket final 12 months upheld that Montague’s lyrics have been admissible in court docket as a result of the lyrics “bear a close nexus to the details of an alleged crime.”

If accepted, the invoice would not ban lyrics within the courtroom altogether. It might require prosecutors to affirmatively show that the proof is admissible by clear and convincing proof.

“I hope this bill advances and lawmakers in Washington and around the country follow suit with similar protections,” stated Jack Lerner, a regulation professor on the College of California Irvine who revealed the “Rap on Trial Guide” as a useful resource for protection attorneys.

There have been a number of different instances the place violent lyrics have been used in opposition to the artists and every case has been totally different. Not like Montague, whose lyrics were penned after the alleged crime, lyrics used within the 2005 New Jersey trial of Vonte Skinner have been written three or 4 years prior regardless of the pages being present in his automobile when he received arrested.

New Jersey’s highest court ruled in 2014 that Vonte’s violent lyrics mustn’t have been admitted as proof at his trial. The state supreme court docket and a decrease appeals court docket each faulted the trial choose for permitting prosecutors to learn the lyrics to jurors.

Such instances have been watched intently by civil liberties advocates who say lyrics needs to be thought-about protected free speech. As Justice Jaynee LaVecchia places it in her opinion on Skinner’s case: “One wouldn’t presume that Bob Marley, who wrote the well-known tune ‘I Shot the Sheriff,’ truly shot a sheriff, or that Edgar Allan Poe buried a person beneath his floorboards, as depicted in his quick story ‘The Tell-Tale Heart,’ merely due to their respective inventive endeavors on these topics.”

Whereas rap and hip-hop aren’t the one genres with violent lyrics or rhymes about crimes, neither is each tune of the genres comprise related messaging, lyrics from the genres are largely all the time used in opposition to Black or Latino artists, the American Civil Liberties Union stated in one in all its evaluation of such instances.

“The admission of art as criminal evidence only serves to erode this fundamental right, and the use of rap and hip-hop lyrics in particular is emblematic of the systemic racism that permeates our criminal justice system,” stated Sen. Bailey.

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