Rap videos submitted as evidence at Bloods gang leader trial - Fox 2 News Headlines

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>>

  • Palestinian banner unfurled on Manhattan Bridge

    Palestinian banner unfurled on Manhattan Bridge

    Thursday, August 21 2014 7:14 AM EDT2014-08-21 11:14:27 GMT
    Pro-Palestinian activists marching along the Brooklyn Bridge got an eyeful when a giant flag banner in Palestinian colors was unfurled on the nearby Manhattan Bridge. The flag had the words "Boycott, Divest, Sanction" and was lowered from a part of the bridge near the Manhattan side Wednesday evening. Activists on the Brooklyn Bridge met its appearance with cheers.
    Pro-Palestinian activists marching along the Brooklyn Bridge got an eyeful when a giant flag banner in Palestinian colors was unfurled on the nearby Manhattan Bridge. The flag had the words "Boycott, Divest, Sanction" and was lowered from a part of the bridge near the Manhattan side Wednesday evening. Activists on the Brooklyn Bridge met its appearance with cheers.
  • Man punched in face in knockout assault

    Man punched in face in knockout assault

    Thursday, August 21 2014 6:55 AM EDT2014-08-21 10:55:16 GMT
    The so-called 'knockout game' where a person punches another unsuspecting person has made its way to Hackensack, New Jersey. Police say one assailant attacked three people all in the same day. Surveillance video shows the athletically built suspect punch a man in the face and stroll away. The man fell to the ground. Two other assaults took place within less than 15 minutes in the areas of Essex Street, Summit Avenue and Beech Street on Monday night.
    The so-called 'knockout game' where a person punches another unsuspecting person has made its way to Hackensack, New Jersey. Police say one assailant attacked three people all in the same day. Surveillance video shows the athletically built suspect punch a man in the face and stroll away. The man fell to the ground. Two other assaults took place within less than 15 minutes in the areas of Essex Street, Summit Avenue and Beech Street on Monday night.
  • Atlantic City police get body cameras

    Atlantic City police get body cameras

    Thursday, August 21 2014 6:36 AM EDT2014-08-21 10:36:31 GMT
    Atlantic City police officers have started wearing body cameras. About five officers a shift will be equipped with the devices, which record video and audio after an officer activates the device. The video is uploaded after the officer's shift ends.
    Atlantic City police officers have started wearing body cameras. About five officers a shift will be equipped with the devices, which record video and audio after an officer activates the device. The video is uploaded after the officer's shift ends.

Powered by WorldNow

WJBK-TV | Fox 2
16550 West Nine Mile Rd.
Southfield, MI 48075

Main Station: (248) 557-2000
Newsroom: (248) 552-5103

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