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62 Ariz. L. Rev. 805 (2020)
"Every Rhyme I Write": Rap Music as Evidence in Criminal Trials

handle is hein.journals/arz62 and id is 821 raw text is: 



                               Reyna   Araibi*

In 1991, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld the conviction of
Derek  Foster, whose  prosecution  was  based  in part on  rap lyrics he wrote
referencing drugs and narcotics trafficking. United States v. Foster ignited a trend
across the country  in which prosecutors  use defendant-authored  rap music as
evidence at trial. Beginning in the 1970s, Black artists in the United States created
rap music  as a form of resistance and as a means of expressing uniquely Black
identity. This deep connection between rap and race continues to inform how society
perceives rap  music and  its artists. Over the years, social psychologists have
observed  the distinct prejudicial impact that rap has on the way  that people
implicitly judge rap artists as violent criminals. These psychologists posit that rap
is judged harshly because it is viewed through the lens of racial stereotypes. The
relationship between rap and implicit racial bias is particularly concerning in the
criminal context in which juries are asked to assess the guilt of a rap artist who is
commonly   a person  of color. This Note is a critical assessment of the use of
defendant-authored rap music  in criminal trials. It first provides an in-depth study
of the history of rap music and its connection to race in the United States. It then
examines  how  rap is used at trial through an analysis of the rules of evidence.
Ultimately, it argues that the use of rap music as evidence is unfairly prejudicial. As
such, judges should exercise the discretion afforded under Federal Rule of Evidence
403  to exclude rap in the majority of cases because of the serious risk that juries
will be improperly influenced by their implicit racial biases, compromising the
constitutional guarantee of impartiality and the endeavor to rid the criminal justice
system of racial animus.

        *    J.D. Candidate, University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, Class
of 2021. This Note is dedicated to the people who use art as a means of resilience and
resistance, and to the criminal defense attorneys who represent their clients with creativity,
compassion, and commitment. Thank  you to Professor Jason Kreag for his thoughtful
guidance, the Arizona Law Review for its hard work and attention to detail, my friends for
their encouragement, and Andrea Matheson for her mentorship. A special thank you to my
parents for their eternal love and support-my father who teaches me faith, strength, and
determination; and my mother who inspires my passion for social justice and who shows me
every day how to be the attorney and the human being I want to be.

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