Canada Prosecutors Are Using Rap Lyrics to Win Cases
In the U.S. there is a precedent to not use one's own song lyrics against them in criminal cases. For Bobby Shmurda for example, his words in "Hot Nigga" were not used as evidence in December of 2014. In Canada however, there is a chilling trend to not only use lyrics but to allow them to influence convictions as well, the Los Angeles Times drawing upon a study conducted by University of Windsor law professor David Tanovich who found 16 cases of rap music used as evidence of guilt and five where it was used as a defense.
Lamar Skeete, for one, is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder, lyrics he once rapped about not speaking to police used against him for a 2009 incident. "This is the code of silence. And this is how it's enforced," said assistant Crown Attorney Karen Simone, recalling the prosecution’s argument.
Tanovich writes however, that "courts must … recognize the very real likelihood that rap lyrics will trigger racialized stereotypes when assessing the prejudicial effect of the evidence."
The main assumption that presenting the lyrics in courts suggests is that any artist's music is solely autobiographical. Charis Kubrin, a criminology professor at UC Irvine who as well has coauthored a recent paper on the subject enforces that notion. "Whether the guy is guilty or not, I'm not interested in," he said. "You have to use traditional forms of evidence to prove that … in my opinion. Artistic expression should not be a part of that, because artistic expression, by definition, is fictional."
In his findings, Tanovich discovered only one case of non-rap lyrics being used in court. What's more, Marcus Bornfreund, a Toronto defense attorney, said that rap videos are used by prosecutions as well in cases of criminal organization.
For additional cases and details visit the Los Angeles Times.
20 of Your Favorite Rappers Naming Their Favorite Rappers