Judge To Determine If Using Rap Lyrics In Murder Trials Is Racially Biased

A California court is debating whether or not presenting rap lyrics in murder trials is racially biased.

On Friday, Judge Claire Maier of Contra Costa County Superior Court heard legal experts explain how a Pittsburg man named Gary Bryant Jr. was subjected to racial bias due to his rap lyrics used in his murder prosecution. Bryant was ultimately convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2015 for a deadly 2014 shooting. A lawyer for the man argued that under the California Racial Justice Act of 2020, Bryant should receive a new trial.

“We’re not asking for someone to get away with murder. We’re asking for a new trial, a fair trial without racial bias and prejudice,” explained Evan Kuluk, who is the public defender representing Bryant.

The Racial Justice Act, which was passed last year in response to the George Floyd murder, protects civil rights in California courts and combats racial prejudice that results in wrongful convictions and sentences. The statute will be tested for the first time if Bryant is granted a new trial.

Bryant, a barber and aspiring artist at the time of his conviction, boasted of the glamorous hip-hop lifestyle in his music. Prosecutors used his lyrics to paint a picture of him as an aggressive gang member, which his attorney’s claim was rooted in prejudice.

Kuluk pointed out that “Black music is treated differently” and insists that the lyrics did not serve as “literal confessions.’

Denise Holdman-Griffin, Bryant’s mother, argues that her son was never a gang member and has never been the violent person he was portrayed to be due to his lyrics.

The judge has yet to decide if Bryant will receive a new trial.

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