Many who study the Unites States criminal justice system are quick to note that racial discrimination in the specific contexts of policing and incarceration leads to disproportionate outcomes for Black and Hispanic Americans. As these aspects of our justice system are riddled with racially disproportionate impacts, their prominence in the advocacy for criminal justice reform and legislative attention is undeniably warranted. However, there is also an area less prominent in the public conversation that has shown to play a substantial role in contributing to the racial disparity we see within our system today: state and federal rules of evidence. Specifically, certain pieces of evidence, like rap lyrics, are wrongfully deemed admissible against criminal defendants in an attempt to correlate lyrics from their songs to guilt of the crime for which they are charged. The movement towards admitting song lyrics into evidence has primarily been used to target Black artists within the hip-hop industry, instead of artists in other music genres.
This post was originally published on the Cardozo Journal of Equal Rights and Social Justice website on November 22, 2021. The original post can be accessed via the Archived Link button above.
Hodgins, Brooke, "Rap Lyrics and Evidence of Guilt: The Racial Impact Of The Weaponization Of Evidence Rules" (2021). ERSJ Blog. 12.