California Legislature Passes Rap Lyrics Bill, Awaiting Signature From Governor Newsom
California lawmakers gave final approval on Monday (August 22) to legislation that would limit prosecutors' ability to use rap lyrics as evidence. According to Billboard, this is a first-of-its-kind legislative victory against something that critics claim can influence juries' use of racial bias.
The Senate unanimously approved AB 2799 a few days ago, and earlier today they re-voted in favor of a bill that had already been passed months before, marking the final hurdle in their path to passing the legislature. The bill will now be sent to Governor Gavin Newsom, who is expected to sign it into law.
The new law, if passed, will allow the use of lyrics in court only when "prosecutors can show that they are directly relevant to the facts of the case and will not 'inject racial bias into the proceedings.'"
Earlier this year, a similar effort in New York failed to gain traction after passing the state Senate but failing to receive a vote in the Assembly.
According to California's regulation, musical evidence has "minimal" value unless the state "can show that the expression was created near in time to the crime; bears a level of similarity to the crime; or includes 'factual details' about the crime that are not otherwise publicly available."
The bill also requests that courts allow testimony about "experimental or social science research" demonstrating how a specific genre "introduces racial bias into the proceedings."
According to Billboard, more than one empirical study has found that jurors perceive hip-hop lyrics to be more dangerous than lyrics from other genres, even when the artists are singing the same words.
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