Two New York lawmakers are requesting prosecutors to stop using rap artists' lyrics against them in court and are citing freedom of artistic expression.
According to NBC New York, Sen. Brad Holyman and Sen. Jamaal Bailey of New York City introduced their "rap music on trial" legislation to the Senate on Wednesday (Nov. 17).
The bill proposal comes almost two years after Brooklyn rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine was sentenced to two years in prison for multiple counts of racketeering, firearms offenses, and drug trafficking.
“Art is creative expression, not a blueprint of criminal plans. Yet we’ve seen prosecutors in New York and across the country try to use rap music lyrics as evidence in criminal cases, a practice upheld this year by a Maryland court," Hoylman said in a statement, referring to 6ix9ine and rapper Lawrence Montague whose lyrics was also used in his murder trial of an Annapolis man.
Montague was sentenced to 50 years in prison for the shooting and use of a firearm.
In 2020, an appeals court said that Montague’s lyrics were admissible in court because they “bear a close nexus to the details of an alleged crime.”
If the proposed bill is approved, it wouldn’t outright ban lyrics in the courtroom. Prosecutors would be required to affirmatively prove that the evidence is admissible and clear and convincing.
"I hope this bill advances and lawmakers in Washington and around the country follow suit with similar protections," said Jack Lerner, a law professor at the University of California Irvine who published the "Rap on Trial Guide" as a resource for defense attorneys.