Rap videos submitted as evidence at Bloods gang leader trial - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Rap videos submitted as evidence at Bloods gang leader trial

Posted: Updated:
By TOM HAYS
Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) - In another battleground in the debate over whether rap lyrics constitute criminal evidence, prosecutors at an ongoing New York City murder trial have shown jurors a series of gritty music videos of an alleged street gang leader rhyming about life and death at a drug-plagued housing project.

One titled "Man Down" offers the refrain, "Empty shell casings on the ground / That's man down." Another called "Slow Down" warns, "See if he was smart, he would've shot me in the head / 'Cause I can get you shot from a hospital bed."

The lyrics were written and performed by Ronald "Ra Diggs" Herron, whose lawyers argue that the recordings - many of them posted on the Web - are merely art imitating life. Rapping about gunplay was the aspiring entertainer's way of being a "voice for the people in the projects where he grew up," defense attorney James Neuman said in opening statements.

Prosecutors at the trial in Brooklyn federal court have countered that the videos show how one of the city's highest-ranking Bloods was determined "to stand out as a real-life gangster who wrote songs and recorded documentary videos about his real-life experiences as a violent gang leader and narcotics trafficker."

The American Civil Liberties Union has said that in 18 cases nationwide in which courts considered rap music evidence, they were admitted about 80 percent of the time. It argues that's a dangerous precedent because the lyrics typically had little or no relation to actual crimes, and are constitutionally protected free speech that should be off-limits at trials.

In the Herron case, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis rejected the First Amendment argument. He ruled that the recordings where relevant because they establish Herron's identity as the leader of the Murderous Mad Dogs, a Bloods faction that sold crack cocaine in the Gowanus Houses in Brooklyn.

The decision cleared the way this week for prosecutors to show a mix of clips that included footage shot by a cooperating witness, Vincent Winfield, who served as Herron's bodyguard before he betrayed him with a plea deal. Winfield testified that after beating a murder case and serving a short prison term in the late 2000s, Herron was eager to send a message that he was reclaiming his turf.

The purpose of the recordings? "Promotion. Advertising his brand. Instill more fear in people," Winfield said. "The average person looks at him like he killed someone and got away with it, so he'll do it again."

Some of the videos look like harmless home movies. In one, Herron stands at the front door of a project building and passes out T-shirts promoting his "Project Music" tapes. In another, he's at the wheel of an SUV, saying, "This is a day in the hood, man. ... I'm surveying my terrain."

Another video titled "Live by the Gun" was uploaded on YouTube and features hip hop artist Waka Flocka Flame, rapping, "Live by the gun, I'm 'a die by the gun" and pledging to shoot back if shot at. Herron later chimes in about carrying types of handguns.

Prosecutors say another clip is proof of payback in the 2009 shooting and wounding of one Herron's top lieutenants, nicknamed Moose. Winfield filmed Herron visiting Moose at the hospital with Herron warning the assailant. "See you at a cemetery near you, man."

Herron is charged with later locating the gunman, chasing him into a courtyard and shooting him dead.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • Suspect, rookie officer both wounded in gunfire

    Suspect, rookie officer both wounded in gunfire

    Sunday, August 31 2014 10:11 PM EDT2014-09-01 02:11:38 GMT
    Authorities say an early morning gunfire exchange on a Brooklyn street has left the suspect hospitalized and a police officer with a graze wound.
    Authorities say an early morning gunfire exchange on a Brooklyn street has left the suspect hospitalized and a police officer with a graze wound.
  • New MTA bus routes take effect

    New MTA bus routes take effect

    Sunday, August 31 2014 9:51 PM EDT2014-09-01 01:51:36 GMT
    MTAMTA
    The MTA has new bus routes throughout the 5 boroughs. 
    The MTA has new bus routes throughout the 5 boroughs. 
  • 3 hurt in lightning strike as storms batter NYC area

    3 hurt in lightning strike as storms batter NYC area

    Sunday, August 31 2014 9:47 PM EDT2014-09-01 01:47:41 GMT
    Heavy thunderstorms swept through the tri-state on Sunday causing flash floods and lightning strikes that injured 3 people. The three men were struck at Orchard Beach in the Bronx Sunday afternoon and were being treated at a local hospital. Meanwhile, various Labor Day weekend celebrations were interrupted, delayed and even canceled as the U.S. Open tennis tournament had to be postponed and the Electric Zoo musical festival on Randall's Island had to be prematurely shut down.
    Heavy thunderstorms swept through the tri-state on Sunday causing flash floods and lightning strikes that injured 3 people. The three men were struck at Orchard Beach in the Bronx Sunday afternoon and were being treated at a local hospital. Meanwhile, various Labor Day weekend celebrations were interrupted, delayed and even canceled as the U.S. Open tennis tournament had to be postponed and the Electric Zoo musical festival on Randall's Island had to be prematurely shut down.
Powered by WorldNow

WHBQ-TV | Fox 13
485 S. Highland St.
Memphis, TN 38111

Main Station: (901) 320-1313
Newsroom: (901) 320-1340

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices