Rap videos submitted as evidence at Bloods gang leader trial - KMSP-TV

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>>

  • Taxi hits and kills woman in Manhattan

    Taxi hits and kills woman in Manhattan

    Friday, August 29 2014 4:10 PM EDT2014-08-29 20:10:50 GMT
    A taxicab slammed into a woman on the Upper East Side, killing her, police said. The cab, driven by a 30-year-old man, made a left turn onto East 79 Street from Madison Avenue and hit the woman, who was trying to cross the street, the NYPD said.
    A taxicab slammed into a woman on the Upper East Side, killing her, police said. The cab, driven by a 30-year-old man, made a left turn onto East 79 Street from Madison Avenue and hit the woman, who was trying to cross the street, the NYPD said.
  • NYC Denny's features $300 breakfast

    NYC Denny's features $300 breakfast

    Friday, August 29 2014 4:04 PM EDT2014-08-29 20:04:13 GMT
    Diner chain Denny's is opening it's first New York City location, complete with a big-city "deal".   How does a $300 breakfast sound?    The Denny's is located at the corner of Nassau and Spruce in Lower Manhattan's Financial District.  Along with its normal food you can get at just about any location in the rest of the country, this location will offer a Grand Slam breakfast with a bottle of 2003 Dom Perignon champagne.
    Diner chain Denny's is opening it's first New York City location, complete with a big-city "deal".   How does a $300 breakfast sound?    The Denny's is located at the corner of Nassau and Spruce in Lower Manhattan's Financial District.  Along with its normal food you can get at just about any location in the rest of the country, this location will offer a Grand Slam breakfast with a bottle of 2003 Dom Perignon champagne.
  • FDNY academy takes steps to curb MRSA outbreak

    FDNY academy takes steps to curb MRSA outbreak

    Friday, August 29 2014 3:32 PM EDT2014-08-29 19:32:38 GMT
    FDNYFDNY
    The Fire Department of New York is taking steps to prevent infection after more than a dozen probationary firefighters were diagnosed with the drug-resistant staph infection called MRSA. Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said a specialized cleaning company will disinfect showers and other high-risk areas at the fire academy at Randall's Island over the Labor Day weekend.
    The Fire Department of New York is taking steps to prevent infection after more than a dozen probationary firefighters were diagnosed with the drug-resistant staph infection called MRSA. Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said a specialized cleaning company will disinfect showers and other high-risk areas at the fire academy at Randall's Island over the Labor Day weekend.
Powered by WorldNow

KMSP-TV
11358 Viking Drive
Eden Prairie, MN 55344

Phone: (952) 944-9999
Fax: (952) 942-0455

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