Pitt Law Alums Speak To TIME On Supreme Court Ruling And Criminalization of Rap Lyrics

The latest Supreme Court ruling in the case of Elonis v. United States has implications on the prosecutorial trend of criminalizing rap lyrics. Pitt Law alums Daniel Muessig, a criminal defense attorney, and Mikhail Pappas, an attorney with Legal Means, spoke to TIME about the case. They are working on the case of Jamal Knox, a Pittsburgh man convicted of terroristic threats because of his rap music on YouTube. 

“It doesn’t take a legal expert or a rocket scientist to see that the fact patterns kind of match up and there’s room to be optimistic,” Muessig told TIME.

Previously, Legal Means and the Innovation Practice Institute at Pitt Law sponsored the Pittsburgh Humanities Festival event Rap Lyrics on Trial, which brought legal experts Charis Kubrin, a criminology professor at University of California, Irvine, and Erik Nielson, assistant professor at the University of Richmond, to speak on the topic.

“The Supreme Court case involving threats isn’t likely to affect the larger tradition of using rap as evidence in an underlying crime,” Nielson said to TIME. “The cases in which rappers’ or aspiring rappers’ lyrics are perceived as threats still comprise a minority of cases.”

Read more in TIME "What the Supreme Court Didn’t Say About Rap."