California Governor Gavin Newsom signs bill restricting use of rap lyrics as evidence in criminal trials

Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a bill to prevent prosecutors from using rap lyrics as evidence against defendants in California.

Newsom signed on the dotted line on Friday to a new bill – the Decriminalization of Artistic Expression Act, also known as AB 2799 – which advocates say will help protect artistic expression in hip hop and rap.

The bill was approved by state lawmakers in August after a massive backlash over the jailing of some rap big names, including Young Thug, Gunna and the late rapper Drakeo the Ruler.

Their song lyrics were used as evidence against them, as prosecutors alleged that Young Thug formed a street gang and promoted it through his songs.

A trial date is scheduled for January 9, 2023.

The case echoed that of the late rapper Drakeo the Ruler, who faced first degree murder, attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges before his death in December 2021.

The Los Angeles-based rapper, who was 28 when he died, had the lyrics to his song “Flex Freestyle” pulled as proof that he killed a 24-year-old man. He was later acquitted.

Rappers Tyga, Meek Mill, Killer Mike, Too $hort, Ty Dolla $ign, YG and E-40, were practically present when Newsom signed the bill.

The signing was also virtually assisted by California representative Reggie Jones-Sawyer and Harvey Mason Jr., CEO of The Recording Academy.

“For too long, California prosecutors have used rap lyrics as a convenient way to introduce racial bias and confusion into the criminal justice process,” said Dina LaPolt, co-founder of Songwriters of North America. , in a statement, according to Variety.

Rapper Meek Mill was present at the zoom meeting when Newsom signed the bill.
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Rapper Tyga was also present when the governor of California signed the bill into law.

“This legislation puts in place important safeguards that will help courts hold prosecutors accountable and prevent them from criminalizing black and brown artistic expression. Thank you, Governor Newsom, for setting the standard. We hope that Congress will pass similar legislation, as this is a national issue.

“Not having this legislation has allowed people to use people’s creativity and words against them when we know it’s not fair,” said Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. .before signing. “I don’t think anyone in the studio, when they’re in their car in their garage or when they’re writing music, shouldn’t be thinking, ‘Is this going to be something that I shouldn’t not say in art and music?’”

“We should be able to express ourselves. We should be able to say things that are in our minds and hearts or in our imaginations without fear of someone bringing it up in a courtroom,” he added.

New York Post

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