I read a disturbing article in The New York Times back on March 26 and it has been resonating with me ever since. It discussed the phenomenon of rap song lyrics as evidence in criminal trials. The song lyrics quoted in court were always violent and often misogynistic — definitely not my kind of music — but I found myself siding with the defense against the use of song lyrics as evidence of guilt. Songs — like poetry and fiction — are made up. They may be confessional, or appear to be confessional, but they are not confessions.
I’m not discussing the crazy perpetrators who make video “selfies” while committing an assault, post it on the Internet and are then surprised when they get accused of the crime they’ve just publicized. I’m focusing on the right to write. I’m working on a mystery that includes a few brutal murders in the story. Could my fiction be used against me in a criminal trial?
Outside of my tiny, law-abiding, mystery writing corner of the world, lyrics and storytelling may indeed contain hints at clues, a few facts and even a “confession” in the form of a bragging chorus after a list of misdeeds in the various verses. But I still want prosecutors to rely on hard evidence in court and I want police to look further than song lyrics (and mystery fiction) when hunting a killer.
What do you think?