Newsom signs bill restricting the use of rap lyrics as evidence in criminal trials

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Friday restricting the use of rap lyrics in criminal court cases across the state.

The law requires that “in a criminal proceeding in which a party seeks to admit as evidence a form of creative expression, a court should consider certain factors when weighing the probative value of that evidence against the significant risk of undue prejudice.”

The new law underscores a larger national debate over banning the use of rap lyrics as evidence in criminal trials, a tactic critics have called racial double standards and a violation of First Amendment rights.

Democratic US Reps Hank Johnson of Georgia and Jamaal Bowman of New York proposed legislation in July that would ban the use of song lyrics as evidence in legal claims, although there has been no movement in the House since its referral to the House Judiciary Committee has given to the legislation .

“Artists of all kinds should be able to create without fear of unfair and prejudicial prosecution,” the Democratic governor said in a statement on Friday. “California’s culture and entertainment industry has set trends around the world, and it is fitting that our state takes a leading role nationally to protect creative expression and ensure artists are not criminalized by biased policies.”

Under the new law, when relevant and presented, California courts must consider testimony relating to the context of a genre of creative expression, “research showing that the introduction of a particular type of expression introduces racial bias into the proceeding,” as well as evidence refuting those findings .

In addition to restricting the use of rap lyrics in California criminal trials, the law, which passed unanimously in the California State Senate and Assembly, also includes the use of “performance art, fine art, poetry, literature, film and other media.” “. .”

According to Newsom’s office, rap artists Meek Mill, Too $hort, E-40, Killer Mike, YG, Ty Dolla $ign and Tyga were present in a video call with the California governor when he signed the law.

Scholars Erik Nielson and Andrea Dennis, authors of “Rap on Trial: Race, Lyrics and Guilt in America,” have argued that “Rap music is the only fictional genre of music used in this way because its primary producers are young black people Men are the criminals who happen to be the target of the justice system.” They say that trends in first-person narrative make the genre’s lyrics prone to being perceived as self-incriminating to law enforcement, focusing on “criminal themes” and “violent imagery.”

Demands from the music industry for legislation on the use of song lyrics in criminal cases have grown following an indictment by Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) against Grammy-winning rapper Young Thug in Fulton County, Georgia earlier this year. CNN previously reported that some of Young Thug’s lyrics were used as examples of “obvious acts” in his indictment, some of which depict extortion.

“Today we celebrate an important victory for music creators in the state of California. Silencing any genre or form of artistic expression is a violation of all music people’s protections of creative freedom across the country,” Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. said in a statement Friday.

The CNN Wire™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery company. All rights reserved. Newsom signs bill restricting the use of rap lyrics as evidence in criminal trials

Laura Coffey

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