Las Vegas Sun

January 19, 2018

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Court says gangsta rap lyrics admissible in murder trial

CARSON CITY — Gangsta rap lyrics written by a man subsequently convicted of a murder in Reno were admissible as evidence because they mirrored the crime, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled today.

In a 2-1 decision, the court upheld the first-degree murder conviction of Deyundrea Holmes, who composed the rap while in jail.

The court rejected defense arguments that the lyrics were improperly admitted at Holmes’ trial. He was convicted in the November 2003 shooting death of Kevin “Mo” Nelson.

Holmes was arrested after his DNA was found to match DNA on a cigarette butt left at the crime scene.

In addition to the DNA evidence, the prosecution presented testimony from eyewitnesses, detectives and associates of Holmes.

One piece of disputed evidence was the rap song, written by Holmes while he was awaiting extradition to Nevada from California.

The lyrics included phases such “jacking” or stealing a necklace, being present in a parking lot and wearing a ski mask, according to court documents. Nelson’s assailant took his necklace and wore a ski mask.

The court, in a majority decision written by Chief Justice Kristina Pickering, said the jury could consider the lyrics as evidence because they mirrored the details of the crime.

Justice Nancy Saitta dissented, saying the lyrics were “artistic expression” and not specific to the crime charged.

“Gangsta rap lyrics are prone to unfairly prejudice the defendant in the eyes of the jury,” she said.

She said the lyrics, which could be misunderstood, may have had a significant impact on the jury and that Holmes’ conviction should be overturned and a new trial ordered.

Holmes was sentenced in 2011 to two consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole.

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