Belmont Criminal Law Journal


Rap lyrics have a high probative value when the lyrics tend to show a defendant’s destructive behavior and confrontational mindset, but the use of this evidence can be highly prejudicial to criminal defendants. Studies have shown graphic evidence leads jurors to experience negative emotional states, and to analyze evidence in accordance with those feelings. This suggests that if a defendant’s profane and violent lyrics are presented before the jury, there is a strong likelihood the jury will react more to the words in the lyrics in characterizing the defendant, rather than the defendant’s case as a whole. To avoid the consequences that result from juror bias, the use of lyrics in criminal trials should be strictly limited to non-character purposes to ensure compliance with the Federal Rules of Evidence, be substantially similar to the underlying crime to guarantee its relevancy, be prohibited if it needlessly presents cumulative evidence, and be redacted to only include those portions that have been deemed relevant. Though the utilization of rap lyrics will need to be assessed on a case-by-case analysis, these factors seek to alleviate the dangers lyrics pose in criminal courtrooms.


Criminal Law, Rappers, Rap Music, Evidence, Juror Bias