‘CPS know the justice ain’t right, but the jury don’t‘
|Dates:||20 April 2021|
|Times:||16:30 - 18:00|
|What is it:||Talk|
|Organiser:||School of Social Sciences|
|Who is it for:||University staff, Adults, Alumni, Current University students, General public|
|Speaker:||Dr Eithne Quinn|
Procedural unfairness and racial bias in the use of rap in criminal cases
There has been a surge in criminal cases in which prosecutors seek to rely on rap lyrics and videos as incriminating evidence in England. Rap, mostly composed by young black defendants, is aired in court and police officers take the stand to interpret it. Rap can sometimes have relevance. However, very often, the state’s claims about rap’s probative value are only superficially persuasive: they ‘ring true’ because they rely on stereotypes about young black men as violent and criminal while having no specific connection to the incident. With defence often making little attempt to contest this evidence, rap’s huge prejudicial value helps lock down convictions.
This paper offers two structuring reasons why the use of rap evidence is unfair: 1) the huge asymmetry in resourcing of prosecution versus defence in decoding rap and 2) the draconian use of joint enterprise law in many of these cases (which are often so-called ‘gang’ cases). It then turns to examples of the state’s misleading claims about rap lyrics in cases on which I have been instructed, revealing how police and prosecutors exploit rap’s susceptibility to misinterpretation. In light of sweeping collective punishments, procedural asymmetry and racist stereotypes, this paper argues that rap material should always be robustly scrutinized by pro-active defence teams and likely has no safe evidentiary place in the courtroom.
Dr Eithne Quinn is a senior lecturer in the School of Arts, Languages and Culture at the University of Manchester and an AHRC leadership fellow on the project Prosecuting Rap: Criminal Justice and UK Black Youth Expressive Culture (2020-21). She is the author of Nuthin’ but a G Thang: The Culture and Commerce of GRap (Columbia University Press, 2005) and A Piece of the Action: Race and Labor in Post-Civil Rights Hollywood (Columbia University Press, 2020), winner of the 2020 BAAS book prize. She acts as a rap expert in UK legal cases
Dr Eithne Quinn
Role: Senior Lecturer
Organisation: Inoversity of Manchester
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