In the USA alone, more than 18 cases have used rap lyrics as evidence to prosecute defendants. Today (April 24) in Toronto, the first case goes on trial -- the case of Avalanche the Architect, who is charged with criminal harassment. His manager Marc called into Jazzy T in the Afternoon to share his story.


We generally believe in Freedom of Speech, but in the case of Vonte Skinner and Darren John, these freedoms are being challenged, as their lyrics lie in the hands of a jury. Skinner, who is a rapper from New Jersey, and John, who goes by the stage name Avalanche the Architect, is from Toronto. Both artists were charged separately for a criminal offense, and their music was used as evidence in court to support their trial.


Skinner was convicted in a New Jersey courtroom of attempted murder of a rival drug dealer, in large part based on extremely violent rap lyrics he’d written. The lyrics were found in his girlfriend’s car when he was arrested in 2005 for “allegedly shooting Lamont Peterson multiple times at close range.”

In 2012, a New Jersey state court of appeals was moved to overturn the 30-year conviction on the grounds that entering the lyrics (13 pages worth that were read out loud to the jury) as evidence was “highly prejudicial,” resulting in Skinner getting a new trial.

True, the lyrics are extremely violent, painting a portrait of a cold-blooded killer, although they were written well before the incident and have no relation to the guy who got killed.

The issue lies not in the justification of their offense, but in the poetic freedom that being threatened under the law, considering that the music was produced long before their image was tainted. The uncommon debate does not take place among other genres including pop music, rock, alternative or other mediums such as books.

Should the justice system be able to present the content of an artist’s music against him/her? Is it "just" to present art as evidence? Sound off below!