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Aspiring rapper Vonte Skinner (courtesy

“A New Jersey man whose rap lyrics boasted he would ‘blow your face off and leave your brain caved in the street’ will have his attempted murder case considered by the state’s Supreme Court, which will decide whether the words he penned should have been admitted at trial,” reports. Some background . . .

After an initial trial ended without a verdict, [Vonte] Skinner was convicted at a second trial of shooting Lamont Peterson multiple times at close range in 2005, leaving Peterson paralyzed from the waist down. Peterson was reluctant initially to identify Skinner as the shooter, but eventually testified at the trial that Skinner was the assailant. Peterson testified the two men sold drugs as part of a three-man ‘team’ and developed a dispute when Peterson began skimming some of the profits for himself.

During the trial, state prosecutors read 13 pages of rap lyrics that were found in the back seat of the car Skinner was driving when arrested. The writings, some penned three or four years before the Peterson shooting, include a reference to “four slugs drillin’ your cheek to blow your face off and leave your brain caved in the street.”

Another passage describes a mother in a mortuary, taking clothes “red soaked ravaged with holes” and “Wonderin’ if you died in pain. Was it instant or did you feel the slugs fryin’ your veins.”

As poetic as that last bit may be, the lyrics were the ice ice icing on the prosecutorial cake. In other words, they didn’t really need to use them. But use them they did. Which triggered the appeal (so to speak) and inspired the NJ ACLU (the civil rights group that counts one, three, four, five . .. ):

“That a rap artist wrote lyrics seemingly embracing the world of violence is no more reason to ascribe to him a motive and intent to commit violent acts than to … indict Johnny Cash for having ‘shot a man in Reno just to watch him die,'” according to the [ACLU’s amicus] brief . . .

In its brief, the ACLU said that an analysis of similar cases in other states found that in 14 of 18 instances, judges allowed rap lyrics to be admitted as evidence. The brief urges the Supreme Court to toughen the standards for admitting lyrics as evidence in a trial.

“We’re not saying song lyrics can never be evidence, but that there needs to be a direct connection to the crimes,” said Jeanne LoCicero, deputy legal director of the ACLU New Jersey.

At the moment, apparently, there isn’t. At least not in New Jersey. Whose shining example in all things firearms-related (in terms of tyranny) provides a heads-up to the rap-loving members of our Armed Intelligentsia: don’t do it. If you do, avoid all reference to shooting people. Which pretty much means don’t do it.

More generally, remember that everything you send down these Intertubez can be accessed by the prosecution and/or an opposing lawyer in a civil suit. The Second Amendment protects the First, but don’t let the exercise of the First remove the Second. Oh and what’s the bet Vonte gets a record deal out of prison?

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  1. wait . . . he didn’t write about “clapping” people out? Must be a detroit thing.

    I will say before the POTG chime in, don’t start with “If Obama had a son” comments. Now. . . . if they state if Michelle had a sibling. . . . well, I am in.

    • Obama started the “If I had a son” comments to tug on our heartstrings when facts (as per usual) weren’t on his side. We didn’t start this.

    • I agree. Obama started that crap and deserves to have it brought up every time a thug case crops up. Same thing with any ordinary everyday item being used in murders and the subsequent facetious calls to ban said items. When these liberals quit making hay out of tragedy, we’ll quit making fun of their idiocy.

  2. “We’re not saying song lyrics can never be evidence, but that there needs to be a direct connection to the crimes,” said Jeanne LoCicero, deputy legal director of the ACLU New Jersey.

    Even though you in fact are saying just that, LoCicero, you still somehow by some miracle manage to raise a valid point: If it has nothing to do with a crime, it shouldn’t be admitted as evidence. Sounds simple enough, no?

  3. Dear ACLU of New Jersey–

    I can assure you that there is a clear, qualitative difference between Johnny Cash singing a prison blues song and someone who emulates and advocates the lyrics in their songs.

    Fun fact: Johnny Cash specifically wrote “I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die” because he thought it was the worst thing a person could say or do, which he wanted to use to illustrate the rough-and-tough nature of Folsom inmates.

    Now indulge yourselves, and watch Johnny Cash hunting crows.

  4. MC Vonte can’t quit rapping, yo. He’s too legit. (The urge, it grabs a-hold of him tightly, daily and nightly…)

    • I think what you meant was: the urge “grabs ahold of him tightly,
      flow like a harpoon daily and nightly.
      Will it ever stop? Yo, I don’t know.
      Turn off the light, and I’ll glow.
      To the extreme I rock a mic like a vandal,
      Light up the stage and wax a chump like a candle”…. etc., etc….

      Vanilla Ice: a poet like no other…

  5. Difference is Johnny Cash didn’t WRITE Boy Named Sue. He only performed it. The writer was Shel Silverstein, American poet, singer-songwriter, cartoonist, screenwriter, and author of children’s books. He certainly wasn’t dealing drugs and being a gangsta. The rap lyrics should be admitted into the trial.

    • “Fun fact: Johnny Cash specifically wrote “I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die””

      Nothing to do with “A Boy Named Sue”, except for the Man In Black singing it…

    • Except the song in question is Folsom Prison Blues, which the man in black did in fact write.

      I mean don’t get me wrong, rap and hip hop is tripe that no one with an appreciation for the arts would be caught dead listening to.

      EDIT: damnit beat to the shot

      • Stepen M. Rap and Hip-Hop are two entirely different things. You would know that if you knew something about this subject. Rap is what you do. Hip-Hop is what you live (5 elements are breakdancing, b-boying, grafitti, emceeing, and knowledge) or, rather, it is a culture. It defines your speech way of dress etc., etc. the “rap” that you speak of has been co-opted many moons ago pretty much the way that gungrabbers are trying to do the same with gun culture. “Gangsta rap” was labeled that by old people who did not know what they were talking about and were too afraid of it due to some of its “in your face” nature. Ultimately, the two are not synonomous.

  6. how can you be charged over lyrics? also how are famous rappers not get in legal trouble for their lyrics?
    “chopper knock your face off”
    “banana clip makes a mess”
    “go to your funeral and kill everybody but the preacher”
    “see me walking with a limp, thats my gun walk”
    “just know that when i see you its going to be a homicide”
    thats just a few violent rap lyrics. why are the artists of these violent lyrics not on trial? (not that i would like to see them on trial just for lyrics)

    • He wasn’t charged over lyrics. He was charged over shooting a guy in the head. Which, even for rap “artists,” is considered just a little bit extreme.

      • true, but when Lil Wayne was sentenced to 8 months in Rikers Island because someone else on his tour bus had a gun, lyrics were never a part of his trial.

  7. Given the number of posts on this blog about fighting tyranny (ie the Connecticut State Police or some other law enforcement agency) I would think that the editors of this blog would be rooting for the ACLU.

    • Only on the rare occasion when they are not demonstrating to the world that they are batshit crazy. Once per decade the ACLU stumbles into taking a worthwhile position (stopped clock theorem}.

    • The next time that the ACLU stands for something, I’ll stand with the ACLU.

      And you, Richard — what do you stand for?

    • ya, i don’t think his stupid rap lyrics were the biggest part of his downfall. i would say that winning a stupid prize for playing a stupid game was his biggest problem.

  8. Let’s hope this highly productive citizen beats this “rap” so he can go back to his lucrative job as a potential Grammy Award winning musician.

  9. I’d be in a lot of trouble if my music collection came to light in a shooting trial. No rap, mind you, and I never deluded myself into thinking I could write lyrics, but I have a massive collection of black and death metal CDs that make Slayer look like Raffi.

    Not to mention that, with metalheads, it seems the more extreme and violent the music they’re into, the more laid back they are (outside of The Pit). I took six years of mostly squandered E-1 to E-4 paychecks and turned them into three years of basically drinking and going to concerts. I saw one fight almost break out at a metal show.

    On the other hand, the sellout rich ex-hippies that turned up to see The Moody Blues were aggressive, rude, quite violent in several incidents, just the absolute worst crowd I ever personally witnessed. I particularly remember one middle-aged, olfactorily stoned and audibly drunk, woman irate that they couldn’t make her a custom shirt on the spot (security had to get involved). And there was another similarly, but more extremely, impaired woman who even managed to make Graeme Edge laugh with her cry of, “Play ‘Nights in White…’ oh, you just did.”

    And to qualify that “sellout rich ex-hippie” remark, most of the guys in the crowd were dressed like they were either just leaving the office or on the way to the country club. I have no problem with selling out, being rich, or even having once been a hippie, but heaven forbid that an audience member show up to a rock concert with jeans, a t-shirt, and long hair. By the second confrontation, I went to my favorite conflict resolution tactic, the “I know something you don’t” expression, which has served me very well throughout life. There was no third time.

    As an aside, that concert was, despite the audience, amazing. It’s only three of the original members, but they find more than competent musicians to fill the gaps. As an aside to the aside, I actually did go with my parents, but I invited them, not the other way around.

    Where was I going with this? Oh, yeah, I’m sort of with the ACLU on this one. The “Folsom Prison Blues” comparison is rather apt. If Stephen King kills a jaywalker because he didn’t see them (almost could have been me tonight, kid ran out from behind a snowbank) is Christine admissible as evidence? Or Maximum Overdrive?

    • I went to a Moody Blues show in the early 90’s and it was absolutely incredible. Man, they put on a good show.

      I did not notice the audience being as you describe, but then again, I was suitably distracted by the chance meeting of a former female friend.

      I think the weirdest audience observation I ever made a concert was the “split” witnessed at a Clapton show. There were two audiences there: those who liked the older stuff (like from the Cream era) and the younger ones that were into the more pop contemporary music.

      It was just strange seeing half sitting half standing for one song, then the next song, it would switch. The standing group would sit, and the sitting group would stand. Even within our group (which included my friend’s little sister)…there was this musical “Civil War” going on.

      Musical sub-cultures are fascinating (and yes, very into metal, too, with similar observations as you made).

  10. The rap lyrics were clearly inflammatory and had little if any probative value. The lyrics actually undermine the state’s case, for, as his attorney said:

    “Think he jus copped some bro’s steezy, took a wheezy nap,
    Couldn’t tell if he could bust some grapes from dat rap
    Might be he just fakes jacks, yo.
    Hes all alone when he skeet skeet skeet ya know,
    say he’s just a basket, a shina,
    don’t really know a nina.
    When he tazzle so bad, soundin like hes bustin cap
    it sounds mo like nods, crazy cause da monkeys back.”

    Which was as clear a motion to exclude as could be made.

  11. Just so long as his next rap “song” isn’t threatening the judge. BTW, I once heard that rap is to music as Etch a Sketch is to art.

  12. Did you seriously drop a Vanilla Ice reference in that article?

    Did you also really say:

    “If you do, avoid all reference to shooting people. Which pretty much means don’t do it.”

    That’s a pretty ignorant. Mis-representing and demonizing an entire sub culture of something by only highlighting bad examples…

    Sound familier?

    I’ll keep listening to rap music, and I’ll stop reading this website thank you.

    • Don’t be so sensitive Ian. You sound like a person that can talk/rap about violence without actually doing it. Vonte doesn’t appear that discerning. In spite of my snarky comment I like good rap like Dre,Snoop, Eminem etc.

      • It’s not sensitivity. It’s the breathtaking ignorance that doesn’t take a lot of sensitivity to blanche at.

        It’s hard to break the Old Fat White Guy image by keeping up the Old Fat White Guy cultural ignorance.

        It’s hard to move away from being a misunderstood and vilified culture by misunderstanding and vilifying a culture.

    • Well, we’ve told on TV for years and years…”Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”

      If it’s on TV, it must be true, right?

    • Oh yeah.. Social media, blogs,opinions, Comment sections in online newspapers..”anything you say can and will be used against you”.. doesn’t discriminate from the source..


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