This is my latest piece at Rolling Stone. Here I begin with the case of Anthony Murillo, a California high school student who was prosecuted for writing a rap song that, according to authorities, was a threat. I testified as an expert witness for the defense, and in a rare victory in cases like this, he was found not guilty. As I have written many times in the past, most defendants whose rap lyrics are used as evidence against them are not so lucky. Here I consider a number of the reasons why.
As I mention in this article, I am now working with University of Georgia law professor Andrea Dennis to gather data on these cases. In the fall of 2016, we each had student research teams helping us, and they generated some truly impressive research. Here at the University of Richmond, the team was comprised of Lisa Cheney, Tracy Ellerman, Zach Grossfeld, Dean Liverman, and Laini Marshall. Their work was invaluable, so in the fall of 2017, I will be putting together another team of students to continue learning about–and drawing attention to–the disturbing use of an art form to put people in prison.