Monday, February 09, 2009

Rap Music and Consciousness of Guilt

In People v. Wallace, the defendant was convicted of murder in the second degree. At issue was whether the government could appropriately enter into evidence testimony that the defendant listened to the rap song "How I Could Just Kill a Man" (by Rage Against the Machine or Cypress Hill -- his favorite song) two or three times shortly after the murder occurred. The Fourth Department held that the evidence was permissible and, while noting the traditionally low value of consciousness of guilt evidence, held that:
"Here, the evidence presented at trial established that defendant played a cassette tape of his favorite rap song, entitled "How I Could Just Kill a Man," two or three times over the course of two five-minute car rides shortly after the homicide. The lyrics of the song describe a murder occurring under similar circumstances as those present in the instant case... The rap song here, however, was not admitted in evidence merely for the purpose of establishing that defendant generally enjoyed rap music. Instead, the People sought to shed light on the circumstances under which defendant listened to the song, and thus the rap song was properly admitted as evidence of defendant's consciousness of guilt".
You can find the lyrics of the song here. The Fourth Department did not describe what sets this particular rap song apart from any other rap song which generally glorifies violence. The song does not seem to describe a particularly unique MO.

As an aside, one must wonder whether we would have the same result if the defendant had listened to "How I Could Just Kill a Man" by Charlotte Sometimes.