Wednesday, August 02, 2017

People v. Singh (Cal. Ct. App. - Aug. 2, 2017)

There are undoubtedly people who are far more familiar with rap lyrics than I am.  Still, even my fairly low level of knowledge makes me wonder how probative (as opposed to prejudicial) the admission of rap lyrics was in this case.

"His writing, “Put it in your face and melts in your mouth like an M&M,” “two to the gut, watch you shut your eyes slow,” and, “I shoot for fun just to watch niggas shake like they goin’ dumb. Put two in your chest, now you goin’ numb” eerily describes what he did to Montoya—shot him in the face and twice in the gut. A jury could infer from defendant’s lyrics his identity as the shooter and his intent to shoot the victim in a specific manner."

Now, if that's how the defendant in fact shot the guy, yeah, that's pretty darn probative.  (Though somewhat diminished if these lyrics are just isolated snippets from several notebooks of rap lyrics, which seems to be the case here.)

And the Court of Appeal says that these lyrics "eerily describe" exactly what he did.


(1) "Put it in your face and melts in your mouth like an M&M."  In the real world, he first shot the guy in the face, true, but not in the mouth, so that "melts in your mouth" part seems exactly not to describe the crime.  And "put in in your face" seems to me like it's referring to putting the gun in the guy's face, not necessarily shooting him there (since he gets shot with the gun in his mouth).  So I'm not sure this "eerily describes" the crime more than, oh, a thousand other rap lyrics about putting a gun in someone's face.

(2)  "I shoot for fun just to watch niggas shake like they goin’ dumb."  But wait.  That's not what the the guy did.  He just walked up to the guy, someone said "Hey Joe," and shot him in the face.  Didn't hesitate.  Didn't make the guy shake.  Didn't intimidate the guy before shooting.  Just shot.

(3)  “Two to the gut, watch you shut your eyes slow.”  That describes shooting a guy in the gut and watching him slowly die -- a classic screenplay threat (and act).  But that's totally not what the guy did here.  He shot him in the face first, a shot that was -- according to the testimony at trial as well as the Court of Appeal -- “an immediately fatal injury".  So no watching someone slowly die at all.  

And as for even the out-of-context "two in the gut" line, the Court of Appeal says that's precisely what the defendant did.  But after shooting the guy in the face, he actually shot him once in the gut -- "near his belly button" -- and then (a) twice more (not once), (b) elsewhere.  "After Montoya fell to the ground, defendant stood over him and shot him three more times; near his belly button, in his left groin, and in his penis."  So that's once in the gut and twice in the groin, not "twice in the gut".  Since I don't know about you, but I don't call my groin and/or my penis my "gut".  And even if I did, that'd mean three in the gut, not two.