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House bill aims to ban the use of lyrics as evidence against defendants in criminal cases



A new House bill introduced this week would ban the use of lyrics and other forms of artistic expression as evidence against defendants in criminal cases.

The Restoring Artistic Expression Act seeks to protect free speech rights by disallowing prosecutors to use lyrics written by defendants as evidence against them in criminal court. The bill was introduced on Wednesday by Congressmen Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Jamaal Bowman (D-NY).

The legislation quotes the decision in a 2011 case in Pennsylvania, saying “Freddy Mercury did not confess to having ‘just killed a man’ by putting ‘a gun against his head’ and “pulling the trigger. Bob Marley did not confess to having shot a sheriff. And Johnny Cash did not confess to shooting ‘a man in Reno, just to watch him die.’” The bill goes on to explain that the use of lyrics and other such art as evidence in court is not fair to defendants.

“Freedom of speech is the constitutional foundation the framers thought necessary to enable a new and free society to craft not only its own destiny through commerce and innovations, but through culture, expression, and art,” said Rep. Johnson in a statement.

He added, “It is no longer enough that the Bill of Rights guarantees that freedom: without further Congressional action, the freedom of speech and of artistic expression present in music will continue to be stifled, and that expression will be chilled, until the voices behind that protected speech are silenced. I thank my colleague Congressman Bowman for joining me in co-leading this legislation.”

“We cannot imprison our talented artists for expressing their experiences nor will we let their creativity be suppressed,” Bowman said.

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