A New York man is facing murder charges for an incident that involved a rival gang shooting. Rap lyrics that the man wrote from his life experiences are now being used as evidence against him. U.S. courts are struggling with whether or not they consider rap lyrics to be admissible at trial. Eighteen cases have been tried in which prosecutors attempted to introduce these lyrics as evidence with 80 percent of them successful.
One case out of New York City involves a 32-year-old man who authorities say shot and killed a rival gang member. They allege that the man is a gang leader. Police claim that a rival gang shot one of the man’s lieutenants in 2009. Prosecutors allege that the man then murdered the person who he believed responsible.
At trial, the judge allowed the man’s rap lyrics as well as a comment allegedly made while the man was visiting his supposed lieutenant at the hospital to be used as evidence. The prosecution was attempting to use the lyrics to establish the man’s leadership position in the gang. The man testified that the lyrics were merely hyperbole rather than descriptions of actual events.
The man told the jury that after serving prison time for drug offenses, he left the gang life and sought a hip hop career. He was told by a producer to use his real life experiences in his music. However, he testified, these words were not directed or referencing anyone in particular.
A criminal conviction in a case like this could have long-term consequences, including prison time, an inability to find employment and other lifelong difficulties. An attorney with experience in criminal defense could assist by negotiating for a plea deal to reduce potential penalties. If no plea agreement is forthcoming, the attorney could provide representation at trial.
Source: WKBN, “NYC murder defendant says rap lyrics were fiction”, June 19, 2014