Court: Rapper's Lyrics Aren't Evidence

'One would not presume' Bob Marley actually shot the sheriff

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 6, 2014 12:08 PM CDT

(Newser) – Disturbing though they may be, justices say, a man's violent rap lyrics can't be used as evidence that he tried to kill someone. New Jersey's Supreme Court reached a 6-0 decision in the case of Vonte Skinner, who is accused of shooting and paralyzing a man. Skinner wrote extensive violent rap lyrics, and they helped result in an initial conviction in the case. But an appellate court said the lyrics couldn't be used as evidence, and the high court agreed. Use of the lyrics is "highly prejudicial," the court said, and it could end up "poisoning the jury," the Star-Ledger reports.

"One would not presume that Bob Marley, who wrote the well-known song 'I Shot the Sheriff,' actually shot a sheriff, or that Edgar Allan Poe buried a man beneath his floorboards, as depicted in his short story 'The Tell-Tale Heart,' simply because of their respective artistic endeavors on those subjects," Justice Jaynee LaVecchia wrote in the case. The court held that such evidence is only valid when it has "a direct connection to the specifics of the offense," Reason notes, applauding the decision. The court has ordered a new trial.

This undated photo provided by the New Jersey Department of Corrections shows Vonte Skinner.
This undated photo provided by the New Jersey Department of Corrections shows Vonte Skinner.   (AP Photo/New Jersey Department of Corrections)
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