If you are on trial for a serious crime, you can find some solace in the fact that courts have rules at both state and federal levels related to the relevancy of any and all evidence presented at trial. That means photos, witnesses, physical evidence, and more must be deemed reliable and pertinent before it gets in front of a jury. Does that mean that only prescient information gets to the jury? You might think so, but that is not always the case.
Case in Point
One recent case exemplifies a problem that is becoming increasingly common. It surrounds a 17-year-old boy who found himself sentenced to life in prison based on circumstantial evidence. There were no witnesses to the crime, and there was no physical evidence. So, what convinced the jury that he was guilty? The lyrics of a rap song he had written were central to the conviction, despite the fact that they were difficult to understand and certainly open to multiple interpretations.
“I shot the sheriff…” crooned Bob Marley. No prison for him. Jimi Hendrix sang that he “caught her messin’ round town, yes I did, I shot her…” and was never even interviewed by police about the lyrics or murder. And when Bob Dylan sang about seven dead people in the Ballad of Hollis Brown, no one fretted he might be a murderer in our midst. The fact is, there are hundreds of thousands of popular songs from every genre that talk about acts of violence. Those lyrics are viewed as art, the songs a thread woven through American culture. Why, then, has rap music gotten such a bad rap? It has got to be nothing short of bias.
The music industry has taken note of the bias against rap music, particularly in the aftermath of a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) indictment against famous rapper Young Thug in Georgia. The Grammy-award winner’s lyrics have been used against him in court, as prosecutors claim them to be overt acts. California is one state that is listening to the protest against using rap lyrics in criminal trials.
California Puts a Stop to Prejudicial Courtroom Antics
Governor Newsom says that all artists deserve to be able to create without being afraid their lyrics will be used against them in court—and he signed a bill into law saying as much. No longer can prosecutors use lyrics without the court thoroughly examining the research on that particular form of expression and considering racial bias. California is blazing the trail for more fair, impartial outcomes in a court of law.
Fighting for Just Outcomes
The knowledgeable and dedicated criminal defense attorneys at The Law Office of David M. Boertje are prepared to put up an aggressive defense for you. If that includes fighting racial bias or any other roadblocks put forth by the prosecution, rest assured that our tenacious lawyers will never give up in the quest for justice on your behalf. For a free, confidential consultation, call our San Diego office today.