A bill to ban the use of music lyrics as evidence in court cases passed the Assembly with amendments for a second time on Monday, sending the bill to Gov. Gavin Newsom for his signature or veto.
Assembly Bill 2799, authored by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Syer (D-Los Angeles), would require courts in a criminal proceeding where a party seeks to admit “constructive expression” into evidence. Evidence against potential danger of bias. Courts are also required to balance the probative value of creative expression against a substantial risk of unfair prejudice by first considering that the probative value of creative expression for its literal truth is minimal unless that expression meets specified conditions.
AB 2799 would require courts to consider whether creative expression can be used as evidence to show a defendant’s propensity for violence or criminal behavior or whether racial bias will be a part of the proceeding.
Essentially, the bills would ask the court how art forms, such as rap music, can be used as evidence and whether specific parts of speech, such as music lyrics, are questioned if they show that the defendant is violent. Evidence is more racially motivated.
Speaker Jones-Sayre wrote AB 2799 because rap music and lyrics have been used against suspects in court, with evidence triggering racial bias in juries. He also noted that without the bill, musical expression would be limited as many music writers might be concerned enough to “stymie” creative expression.
“Under current law rap artists can feel like they’re being read their Miranda rights before they start writing music: ‘You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law,'” Assemblyman Monday. Jones-Sayer said. “We should not stifle the creative expression of artists. Unfortunately, racial bias plays a role when talking about music genres. Rap music songs share many similarities with other music categories but are singled out by a judging system for the artist’s specialty. AB 2799 would prohibit prosecutors from triggering racial biases or reinforcing racial stereotypes and would give judges guidance on the use of constructive expression in court.”
AB 2799 veto, to go to Governor Newsom for approval
AB 2799 was completely gutted and replaced in June, moving from a jury instruction bill to a bill regarding the use of music lyrics as evidence in court cases. Despite the radical change, both Republicans and Democrats supported the bill, with the Senate passing it 38-0 earlier this month and then 76-0 in the Assembly on Monday.
“The bill is popular because it shows a big problem and because it affects creative expression across the board,” said Ted Cooper, a lawyer who has been part of cases in four states where music lyrics played a role in legal cases. “Rap music is the main thing here, because the lyrics are often suggestive or violent with most of the artists being black. But there have been cases in other genres, especially country, that affect everyone as well.”
“For a lot of people, the music you write or sing when they appear in court really affects how the jury views the person. If they’re singing about violence or something, like, a shooting case or a domestic abuse case, the jury might zero in on that. Plus the jury Often the media pays more attention when it’s played, because it’s a different thing being presented. A person talking for five hours can be monotonous. But music or video being played or at least quoted is such a change of gear. And the genre can really influence the judges.”
“So members of both parties are in favor of the bill in California. It’s a lot of trouble in the courts.”
AB 2799 will go next to Governor Newsom, who is expected to sign it into law next week.
If signed into law, California would be the first state in the country to have such a legal policy. It was likely to become the second law earlier this year, but due to delays with a similar bill in New York, California may become the first law.