California’s new “rap lyrics bill” used to overturn 2018 murder conviction

So progressive!

In 2018, Travon Rashad Venable Sr. was convicted of the 2014 murder of Enon Damon Edwards Jr, 20, in San Bernardino. A jury found Venable was driving the car from which a drive-by shooter killed Edwards and wounded another man.

The shooter, Elgin Johnson, was given a comically weak wrist slap plea deal. He accepted the agreement in 2019 and only got 22 years.

Venable got more prison time because he fought the charges and continued to claim he was innocent. During his trial, the prosecution showed the jury a rap music video featuring Venable in which the shooting was mentioned. The rap song stated, “got word from a bird that they did that (racial slur) dead wrong. Slid up Medical and left that (racial slur) head gone.” The drive-by shooting occurred on Medical Center Drive.

He was convicted and sentenced to 129 years in prison.

Last September, California passed bill 2799, which was specifically aimed at keeping rap music lyrics and videos from being used as evidence in trials. The bill says that rapping about crimes is just “creative expression,” does not constitute evidence or a confession, and would “inject racial bias” into the trial. The law has been nicknamed the “rap lyrics bill” and “rap music law” in the media.

The Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled “the trial judge’s admission of the rap evidence in this case did not comply with the new requirements for admission of creative expression.”

If prosecutors want to keep Venable in prison, they must try him all over again.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments