Judge Rules Against Prosecutors Attempt To Use Rapper's Lyrics As Evidence Of Conspiracy
(AllHipHop News) The use of rap lyrics as evidence during criminal trials has been a hot button topic in legal circles in recent years. In a recent case, a San Diego judge dropped gang conspiracy charges against rap artist Brandon "Tiny Doo" Duncan.
According to KFGO, the prosecution tried to connect Duncan to nine area shootings based on his musical content and social media posts. Authorities claimed the rapper was associated with the "Lincoln Park" gang, and his lyrics encouraged violence against rival gangs.
Seven people were charged in the 16-count indictment. Duncan was not accused of being directly involved in the 2013 and 2014 shootings.
"This is a First Amendment victory,” said Duncan's attorney Brian Watkins. “Brandon had no knowledge of and no part in the shootings, but he was charged as though he did because he is in gangster rap. It’s entertainment, not crime.”
Judges across the country have landed on different sides with the issue of lyrics used as evidence. Last August, the New Jersey Supreme court ruled rapper Vonte Skinner’s attempted murder conviction be overturned, claiming the reading of his lyrics to the jury was “highly prejudicial” and “bore little or no probative value.”
"One would not presume that Bob Marley, who wrote the well-known song 'I Shot the Sheriff,' actually shot a sheriff, or that Edgar Allan Poe buried a man beneath his floorboards, as depicted in his short story The Tell-Tale Heart, simply because of their respective artistic endeavors on those subjects," wrote Justice Jaynee LaVecchia for the 6-0 ruling. "The Court reasons that defendant’s lyrics should receive no different treatment."
In 2013, the Nevada Supreme Court upheld Deyundrea “Khali” Holmes’ first-degree robbery and murder conviction in a 2-1 decision. Holmes was found guilty after prosecutors stated raps he had written were confessions to the crimes.
“It is one thing to exclude defendant-authored fictional accounts, be they rap lyrics or some other form of artistic expression, when offered to show a propensity for violence,” wrote Chief Justice Kristina Pickering. “It is quite another when the defendant-authored writing incorporates details of the crime charged.”
The San Diego District Attorney’s office is considering appealing the ruling in Duncan's case. The prosecutors issued a statement alleging the community and the media have been manipulated to be misinformed about Duncan's gang involvement
Watch ABC 10's report on Brandon "Tiny Doo" Duncan below.