New York lawmakers introduce bill to limit use of rap lyrics as evidence in trials


STATEN ISLAND, NY – Record scratch.

Earlier this week, two New York state senators unveiled legislation to protect rappers, artists and other creators from prosecutors’ use of their content and lyrics.

Bill Rap Music on Trial, proposed by State Senators Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) and Jamaal Bailey (D-The Bronx), seeks to limit the admissibility of an accused’s “creative expression”, such as lyrics or video , as evidence presented to a jury.

The legislation follows two recent cases: In January this year, a Maryland appeals court ruled to allow prosecutors to submit rap music recorded by Lawrence Montague as evidence against him in a lawsuit, despite a judge dissident stating that the “rap lyrics had little or no probative value”; and in 2019, when the lyrics of rap music artist Daniel Hernandez (known as Tekashi69 or 6ix9ine) were presented in court and used to force Hernandez to become a government witness to avoid harsher sentences.

“Art is creative expression, not a blueprint for criminal plans,” Hoylman said in a press release. “Yet we have seen prosecutors in New York and across the country attempt to use rap music lyrics as evidence in criminal cases, a practice confirmed this year by a Maryland court. It’s time to end the blatant prejudices against certain genres of music, like rap, and to protect the First Amendment rights of all artists. I am proud to present this legislation so that New York can lead the way in treating artists fairly, regardless of their background.

Bailey added: “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 system. criminal justice. In many cases, even the simple association with certain genres, like hip-hop and rap, leads to scrutiny in the courtroom and is used to presume guilt, immorality, and propensity. to criminal activity. This bill will finally put an end to this grossly discriminatory practice by ensuring that there is a valid link between the speech sought to be admitted into evidence and the alleged crime.


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