Can Rap Music Be Used as Evidence?

January 1, 2019 | By Shane Phelps Law
Can Rap Music Be Used as Evidence?

In July of 2019, at T. McIntyre’s sentencing hearing, the prosecutor presented a somewhat controversial piece of evidence: the young man’s rap song.

In 2016, McIntyre, who is also known as rapper Tay-K, was charged with murder for his alleged involvement in a home invasion that resulted in death. Seven other individuals were also facing charges for this incident.

Song About Fleeing from the Law

In April of 2017, while awaiting trial for the murder charge, McIntyre is said to have cut off his ankle monitor and fled the state. While allegedly on the run, he recorded a song call “The Race,” which supposedly talks about his experience running from the law. In June of 2017, U.S. Marshals apprehended the young man.

McIntyre, in “The Race,” sings about how he “posed” someone and then did “the dash then I go out the way.” He also says that he didn’t “beat that case,” he “did the race.” the song was a hit, but the prosecutor introduced it at the Fort Worth trial as a way to speak to the young man’s character and push for a long prison term.

Rap Music Introduced as Evidence

During a sentencing hearing, both the defense and the prosecutor may present evidence to convince a judge or jury that the defendant should get a lesser or greater sentence. The defense counsel may introduce mitigating factors — those that cast a favorable light on the defendant — while the prosecutor might argue that aggravating circumstances justify a harsher sentence.

The judge or jury will consider both sides and might look at evidence pertaining to both the offense and the offender. In McIntyre’s case, the jurors were given the lyrics to “The Race.” They were also shown the music video, which shows the young man holding a gun and dancing with what appears to be his wanted poster in the background.

Controversial Use of Rap Music

What makes a prosecutor’s use of rap music controversial is that it is employed as a tool to argue either that the defendant committed whatever offense they are on trial for or that they had the intent or motive to carry out the act. For instance, in a 2016 case in California, rapper Drakeo the Ruler was on trial for murder. When prosecutors learned that he wasn’t the gunman, they scoured his rap music to prove that he had a connection to gang activity and access to firearms. He was later acquitted of the charges.

When rap music is used in this way, it suggests that the lyrics are some type of confession, that the rapper is admitting they’ve been involved in criminal activity or that they have threatened violence against others. However, rap is a form of art and could be used as a person’s outlet, a way for them to express their view of society.

Having gang-related conduct in lyrics or a video might also be a way to secure protection in a world the rapper views as unsafe, as happened with rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine. He was called to testify against a New York gang, explaining gang signs and pointing out members. Although his music made it seem like he was involved in gang activity, he admitted that he was never initiated and simply provided financial support in return for protection.

If rap lyrics are used at trial, a person could be convicted or face more severe punishments for bringing to light social ills in their music.

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Prosecutors introduce evidence to strengthen their arguments that a defendant is guilty. An experienced attorney can thoroughly review the testimony, documents, and other items that the other side seeks to submit to find holes in the allegations. If you were charged with a crime, our lawyers will be committed to conducting a detailed assessment of your case to build a solid legal defense. We will work toward getting charges reduced or dropped.

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