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Rap lyrics on trial: Bill would limit prosecutors’ use of words and music as evidence

Photo illustration by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters, iStock

Photo illustration by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters, iStock

Gary Bryant Jr. exchanged gunfire with a man in an Antioch apartment parking lot on a July afternoon in 2014. Both were struck by bullets. Bryant survived and the other man died.

Police said it was part of a string of gang shootings in the East Bay. At trial, prosecutors alleged — and a jury agreed — that Bryant and an accomplice were guilty of first-degree murder. 

Bryant, then 28, was a local rapper in Pittsburg who uploaded music videos to YouTube. In his lyrics, he talked about gang war, shooting at rivals and challenging other rappers. At Bryant’s trial, an Antioch police officer testified that the lyrics were key to understanding his criminal mindset. 

A photo of Gary Bryant Jr.

A photo of Gary Bryant Jr. with his mother, Denise Holdman.

This article was republished with permission from CalMatters.  You can read more of their coverage of California state government on CalMatters.org

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