(AllHipHop News) There has been a rather quiet debate taking place across the country on whether a rapper's lyrics and videos should be used as evidence against them during a criminal trial. The outcomes have varied from state-to-state and district-to-district, and now one New York judge has ruled on the side of the prosecution.
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According to the New York Daily News, federal judge Kiyo Matsumoto decided to allow YouTube music videos to be presented against the supposed leaders of the Brooklyn drug gang Together Forever Mafia. Michael "Rab" Garrett and Paul Rivera are facing racketeering charges, and prosecutors will be allowed to show videos for songs like “Smell Murder" and “Hustler Anthem” as evidence of guilt.
“The court finds that excerpts of videos depicting the defendants with firearms, cash and drugs are highly probative to the weapons-related charges, narcotics trafficking and money-laundering charges,” wrote Matsumoto. “The defendants may offer evidence at trial... that the weapons, cash and drugs depicted are ‘props,’ but it is up to the jury to weigh this evidence and decide what is depicted."
Judge Matsumoto's decision follows other cases that support the government's right to use a rapper's own artistic work against him in court. In August 2013, the Nevada Supreme Court upheld the murder conviction of Deyundrea “Khali” Holmes after his lawyers appealed on the grounds that lyrics are just artistic expression.
Other judges have agreed with the defendant's point of view. Last month gang conspiracy charges against San Diego's Brandon “Tiny Doo” Duncan were dropped when a judge ruled his lyrics could not be used as evidence.
In August 2014, the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously ruled Vonte Skinner’s attempted murder conviction be overturned. The court concluded a performer's lyrics can only be used as evidence when the words connect to the particular crime being tried.
Watch the videos for TF Mafia's “Smell Murder" and “Hustler Anthem” below.