In the age of social media and where youtube views going viral is the only important thing going in the teenage mind nowadays. What happens when something is written that could have remained just thought in your head. Or maybe a violent visual could have not been seen. Nowadays a posting on facebook/instagram can lead to jail time and videos with guns as props will bring charges as well.
Most recently a group in Virginia calling themselves the “Stain Gang” were recently arrested for weapons possession and trespassing. The Stain Gang were recording a rap video which featured them waving guns and even driving a stolen vehicle at the time. The vehicle in the video matches the description of one stolen in the area at the time of the video, but has yet to been positively I’d . Hampton police spotted the gang which consists of three individuals whom only one is of legal age, driving on the property of a local Boys and Girls club.
I agree these young men should feel some weight under the law,maybe some community service a few mandatory programs they have to be in accordance with. Here is where I really am struggling with the law once again. Some states and politicians want to put rap lyrics into the court room as admissable pieces of evidence. At the beginning of the year there was a trial in the Supreme Court of New Jersey. The case that made this new breakthrough involved a man named Vonte Skinner who was involved in a shooting back in 2005. When the trial occured in 2008 the prosecution used 13 pages of rap lyrics written by Mr. Skinner in their case, even though these lyrics were written years before the crime happened.
In the hood, I am a threat / It’s written on my arm and signed in blood on my Tech” — a reference to a Tec-9 handgun. “I’m in love with you, death.” These were some of the lines mentioned in the trial, and eye witnesses who changed their stories more then Aesop’s fables reimagined the jury found Skinner guilty of attempted murder and sentenced him to 30 years. Luckily for Skinner in 2012 the court’s decision was overturned in light of the rap lyrics should have not been admitted into court. “We have a significant doubt about whether the jurors would have found defendant guilty if they had not been required to listen to the extended reading of these disturbing and highly prejudicial lyrics.” The state appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.
In that year alone there were 18 cases with similar circumstances where 80% of them were allowed to use rap lyrics as evidence. The common tactic is using the rap lyrics as a autobiography even when most of the time Rappers use rap names and use their fictional stories as first person narrations embellishments of a harsh, loveless lifestyle where money, sex, violence are the tools and power and fame are the goals. At the same time does anyone think of Michael Jackson as an actual “Smooth Criminal” or the Rihanna shot a man down in her song “Man Down” or even Eminem’s many songs about killing his ex-wife.
In the 1990’s the issue was brought up by Stuart Fischoff a psychologist at the California State University of Los Angeles. A study found that when individuals were read violent rap lyrics by the suspect versus when they were not read, the jury were more likely swayed into thinking the suspect was guilty even when they were all presented with the same biographical information. Unfortunately in Nevada in a case under the same circumstances the use of the rap lyrics as evidence was upheld in court. In his memoir Decoded, hip-hop star Jay-Z wrote, “The art of rap is deceptive. It seems so straightforward and personal and real that people read it completely literally, as raw testimony or autobiography.” As Nielson and his research partner Charis Kubrin note in their paper, “Rap on Trial,” “If rap lyrics are treated as mere diaries or journals, no special skill or training is necessary to analyze them, and consequently juries may hear false or misleading testimony about rap from witnesses…who lack the basic qualifications to offer it.”
If your a believer in the first amendment than you are more likely to be on the side of the using all lyrics in music for prosecution purposes. One test done back in 1996 used violent song lyrics and told one group they were country song lyrics, while telling another group they were folk song lyrics and then the last group was told they lyrics came from a rap song. Not surprising to me at all, the group who thought they were reading rap lyrics found them more offensive and a bigger threat to society than the folk and country song lyrics. It seems stereotypes control perception and this is dangerous when thinking of using rap lyrics in court that will be used to convict someone. “I’m just not convinced that using traditionally white forms, for example country music, or using novels against white authors would work,” Nielson says. “There is something about rap music that gives it this special treatment. It’s been negated as an art form.”
It’s not just rap lyrics creating controversy, but postings on your favorite social media site ,maybe used in court against you as well. Could an instagram pic you post end up with 142 counts of felony charges ? If you’re a man named Dupree Johnson in Florida then that’s a yes. The Sheriff in Palm Beach County, Fla. viewed Johnson page and had known he had a rap sheet consisting of grand theft, burglary and felony possession of a firearm. After seeing the pics the sheriff put together search warrant for Johnson’s home in Lake Worth, Fla. The police confiscated a glock, a stolen tec-9 9mm pistol, electronics, firearms and $250,000 dollars in stolen jewelry. The police believe Johnson may been involved as many as 40 burglaries and 55 others in Boynton Beach, Fla. Johnson is behind bars in lieu of $60,000 bail and his Instagram page “Duce22ceritfied” is no longer working.
Here’s another story to let you know how easy for someone to get caught is through social media. A man in Pa. posted a picture of himself mocking police, but the joke was on him when he was caught. Anthony J. Lescowitch Jr. 35 was wanted for aggravated assault and other charges from back in July in Freeland. The borough police weren’t having any luck finding him so they posted a picture of him on the department’s facebook page and within three minutes he was found. Here’s where things get stupid, Lescowitch himself posted the pic mocking his own picture. The police then knew they had his attention so they posed as a female on facebook and gained Lescowitch trust to began a conversation that lasted 30 minutes and enough information was gathered to lead to an arrest. Lescowitch was charged with assault for an incident back in July 14 2013 when four individuals used physical force on the victim and then he was robbed for $53 dollars and then the victims ATM card was used later for a withdrawal of $100 dollars.