Friday January 24, 2014

New Jersey Supreme Court to decide if rap lyrics can be used as evidence



This week, New Jersey's Supreme Court began hearing the case of Vonte Skinner. In his initial trial, the prosecution read aloud 13 pages of Gangsta Rap lyrics penned by Mr. Skinner. 

He was convicted of attempted murder.

All the lyrics were written before the crime, and though they do serve as an 'ode to violence', none speak to the specific events for which Mr. Skinner was convicted.

An appeal overturned that conviction, but now the high court will decide if those lyrics should be admissible as evidence.

Charis E. Kubrin is an associate professor of criminology, law and society at the University of California, Irvine. She has been an expert witness in cases like Mr. Skinner's, and, last week, co-authored an op-ed in the New York Times on the Vonte Skinner case.

She is concerned that there is a growing trend of using rap lyrics against defendants at trial, and that the lyrics are presented as confessions, and not as a work of art.

Click Listen to hear Charis E. Kubrin.