Rappers push for Senate bill to stop NYC prosecutors from using rap lyrics as evidence
In support of a proposed New York state bill that would limit prosecutors’ power to use defendants’ rap lyrics as evidence of alleged crimes, celebrities such as Jay-Z, Meek Mill, Big Sean and others have regrouped.
A letter signed by the rap legends, according to Rolling Stone, is circulating among state politicians, urging them to pass Senate Bill S7527.
Originally introduced in November and passed by the Senate Codes Committee earlier this week, the bill is intended to be made into full state law. Fat Joe, Kelly Rowland and Killer Mike are among the celebrities who signed the letter.
The Senate Bill
The bill slated to become state law is Senate Bill S7527.
Introduced by Democratic Senators Brad Hoylman and Jamaal Bailey and Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, the bill seeks to limit the admissibility of evidence of a defendant’s creative or artistic expression against such a defendant in a proceeding. criminal.
With this bill passed, authorities cannot use an artist’s music as evidence to prosecute them in criminal proceedings.
If used, prosecutors must provide “clear and convincing evidence” that the expression in the artwork is “literal, rather than figurative or fictitious.”
Hoylman uses two examples to illustrate the discrepancy between rap lyrics used as evidence and other types of expression.
He claimed no one believed Johnny Cash “shot a man in Reno just to watch him die”, and no one believed David Byrne was a “psychopathic killer”.
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In support of the cause
Erik Nielson, a professor at the University of Richmond and co-author of the 2019 book Rap on Trial, studied “the alarming use of rap lyrics as criminal evidence to imprison and incarcerate young men of color.”
Nielson worked with Alex Spiro, Jay-Z’s attorney who wrote the circulation letter the rappers signed asking for the bill to pass.
Killer Mike (real name Michael Render) and Nielson wrote an essay for Vox in 2015.
Their article claimed that the rap lyrics were being used as “confessions of guilt” in court, citing the manslaughter conviction of hip-hop musician McKinley “Mac” Phipps as an example of this practice.
According to Rolling Stone, the late Drakeo the Ruler was one of the rappers who served time in prison after prosecutors used the lyrics to his 2016 song “Flex Freestyle” to convict him of a crime.
Darrell Caldwell, also known as Drakeo, served three years in prison after being charged with the 2016 murder of a man who was waiting outside a party in Carson, California.
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