Gangsta rap lyrics used as evidence in some criminal trials

When it comes to defending oneself against criminal charges at trial, the evidence presented by both parties is usually vital. While physical evidence and testimony is common at trials, there is another type of evidence that is being introduced by the prosecution in some trials. The evidence is in the form of rap lyrics. The lyrics are being used in murder trials in courtrooms across the country to try to convict suspects.

There are a couple of ways in which the lyrics have been used against aspiring gangsta rappers accused of murder. In most cases the lyrics, which may be pulled from videos made by the accused and uploaded to video sharing sites such as YouTube, are used to establish the motive and intent of the defendant. Other times they are presented as a confession to a crime.

Unsurprisingly, criminal defense attorneys are concerned about the use of this type of evidence. They are concerned that juries are relying upon those lyrics to convict an individual without understanding that in many cases, gangsta rappers adopt fictional personas and write about things that have never even happened. Another concern is that rap lyrics are being relied upon by the law enforcement to make a case and other, more solid forms or evidence, which might point to another suspect, are being abandoned.

When one is charged with a crime the outcome of the case is never assured. This is in large part because one never knows how a jury will interpret the evidence presented at trial. For this reason it is important that those accused of crimes do what they can to mount a vigorous defense. Doing so could have a big impact on the rest of their life.

Source: The New York Times, “Legal Debate on Using Boastful Rap Lyrics as a Smoking Gun,” Lorne Manly, March 26, 2014