2 New York Senators to Introduce Bill to Limit Use of Rap Lyrics in Criminal Trials: Report

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The bill is set to be introduced this week, according to reports.

Two New York state senators are set to introduce a bill that will limit the use of rap lyrics in criminal trials, according to Rolling Stone.

This week, senators Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) and Jamaal Bailey (D-The Bronx) are introducing a new bill titled "Rap Music on Trial," to limit the use of rap lyrics as evidence in criminal trials, Brooklyn Vegan reported.

The bill "would amend state criminal procedure law to strictly limit the admissibility of a defendant’s lyrics, videos, or other 'creative expression' as evidence shown to a jury,” according to Rolling Stone.

Rolling Stone was given an exclusive look at the bill which they say in a new article that “would set a new, high bar compelling prosecutors to show 'clear and convincing evidence' that a defendant’s rap song or other creative work, is 'literal, rather than figurative or fictional.'"

The senators also reportedly argued that using rap lyrics as evidence creates an unfair racial bias.

“Hoylman says no one believes Johnny Cash 'shot a man in Reno just to watch him die' or that David Byrne is a 'psycho killer,' but over and over, rap musicians involved in criminal cases have their music used against them," Rolling Stone reported.

Senator Bailey made the argument in the article that this only happens with music and not with movies.

“There’s a lyric by Jay-Z that always speaks to me: ‘Scarface the movie did more than Scarface the rapper to me.’ It underlines the point that we don’t see this happening with movies,” he told Rolling Stone.

Hours after the article was published in Rolling Stone, Senator Bailey took to Twitter to formally announce his plan with Senator Hoylman.

“Hip-Hop music shouldn’t be scrutinized at a higher level than other forms of creative expression. Hopefully, this bill by @bradhoylman and I will change that,” he tweeted.

In November 2020, the ACLU stated a similar argument in an article on their website titled “Putting Rap Lyrics on Trial is a Violation of Free Speech.”

“If song lyrics could be used as evidence in criminal trials, many of the most famous artists in history would be in serious trouble. Bob Marley sings 'I Shot the Sheriff.' The Talking Heads’ biggest hit is 'Psycho Killer.' The opening lines to Queen’s 'Bohemian Rhapsody are 'Mama, just killed a man.' Fortunately for these artists, artistic expression is protected as free speech under the First Amendment,” the ACLU wrote.

“However, some art forms are seen differently by many courts. Rap music, in trial after trial, has been treated as inherently incriminating,” the organization added.

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