State Watch

California advances bill limiting use of hip-hop lyrics in court

Young Thug
Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP
FILE – Young Thug performs on Day 4 of the Lollapalooza Music Festival on Aug. 1, 2021, at Grant Park in Chicago. The Atlanta rapper who’s accused of conspiracy to violate Georgia’s RICO Act and participation in a criminal street gang, is facing six new felony charges along with four others linked to the case. A new indictment was filed in Fulton County Superior Court last week against the artist, whose real name is Jeffery Williams. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP, File)

Legislation in California that would limit the use of hip-hop lyrics as criminal evidence in court proceedings has cleared the state’s legislature.

Senate Bill AB 2799 passed the state’s Senate in a 76-0 vote on Tuesday. The bill is now headed to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) desk, where it should be signed into law in the coming days, making it the first such measure to become law, according to ABC News

The legislation, first introduced by state Sen. Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D), seeks to make sure “an accused person’s creative expression will not be used to introduce stereotypes or activate bias against the defendant, nor as character or propensity evidence.” 

The bill will also require courts to determine the admissibility of the song lyrics as evidence in the case, and whether the content should be linked to the alleged crime. 

“And to recognize that the use of rap lyrics and other creative expression as circumstantial evidence of motive or intent is not a sufficient justification to overcome substantial evidence that the introduction of rap lyrics creates a substantial risk of unfair prejudice,” the text of the bill reads. 

The measure comes four months after the high-profile detainments of Atlanta-based rappers Young Thug, whose real name is Jeffery Williams, and Gunna, whose real name is Sergio Kitchens. The two were among more than two dozen individuals arrested by authorities on felony racketeering charges. 

Prosecutors allege that Thug formed a street gang and promoted his gang’s lifestyle through its music and social media posts. 

The indictment unsealed against them in Fulton County, Ga., also included hip-hop lyrics from both artists’ music catalogs. The two have been denied bond and are set to appear in court in January. 

Prominent figures such as Atlanta-based rapper and activist Killer Mike and Democratic Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams have voiced their disapproval of hip-hop lyrics being used as criminal evidence in court cases. 

Tags California California California state Senate Gavin Newsom Gavin Newsom Georgia Gunna hip-hop Killer Mike Racketeering Rappers Reggie Jones-Sawyer Stacey Abrams Young Thug Young Thug

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