ATLANTA — Young Thug's legal team is trying to throw out his rap lyrics as evidence in court, a new motion revealed.
New motions were filed in the Superior Court of Fulton County in the RICO case again Jeffery Williams, popularly known as Atlanta rapper Young Thug. District Attorney Fani Willis has accused the rapper of being the ringleader of the Young Slime Life gang.
Here are the main takeaways from the most recent motions from both prosecutors and the defense.
Issue with jury questions
Young Thug's legal team motioned to limit language in the questionnaire potential jurors receive, particularly around the use of YSL and the word gang. In its Nov. 29 filing, the team also asked the judge to prohibit race-related questions from being asked and took issue with several other topics in the jury questionnaire.
"The prosecution writes that YSL is, in fact, a Criminal Street Gang. That is a point of contention and is denied as applied to Mr. Williams," the defense writes in its motion. "To permit this question to be asked to the jury venire panel would unlawfully presume that the prosecution has already met an essential element of crimes alleged in the Indictment."
Lawyers for the rapper said YSL is a record label and the prosecution must prove it is a gang and that Young Thug played a role in gang-related violence beyond a reasonable doubt -- which is what the trial is for. To ask a jury about "facts that are yet to be proved" prejudged the case, court records allege.
Here are a few of the questions the defense takes issue with:
- Do you know someone who is, was, or may be an associate of the Young Slime Life (AKA YSL) criminal street gang other than a named defendant?
- Do you have a family member or close friend who knows a named defendant, a YSL criminal street gang associate, or the family member of a named defendant or a YSL criminal street gang associate?
- Would you refuse to consider rap lyrics as evidence of criminal street gang activity?
- Do you believe that it is unfair to consider rap lyrics as evidence in a criminal case?
- Do you believe that the race of a criminal defendant would prevent you from being a fair and impartial juror to all parties?
- Do you feel that a witness who has been in trouble with the law should not be believed?
- Do you agree with or support the defund the police movement?
Read the full of list of questions the defense is asking the judge to strike here.
Rap lyrics are protected speech, defense says
Lawyers for Young Thug said his rap lyrics should not be used in court.
Attorneys said the rapper's lyrics and his "social media poetry" are protected under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the U.S. Constitution, and the Georgia Constitution as they are connected to music, freedom of expression and freedom of speech.
In their motion, Young Thug's legal team claims using his lyrics against him "is racist and discriminatory because the jury will be so poisoned and prejudiced" by the artistic material, calling it "unlawful character assassination."
Ultimately, the defense is asking the judge to strike all pieces of artistry - including videos - from the original indictment that kick-started the case in the first place. The team again takes aim at the use of the lyrics, saying it can't be used as a key piece of evidence unless the prosecution can prove it to be "admissible for a proper purpose at trial," without a jury present.
No video to protect the case, trial
Prosecutors also filed a motion to ask the judge to allow video recording of the trial proceeding, citing an effort to protect the safety of the case.
"The present case has been heavily covered by the media thus far since indictment," prosecutors said in the court filing.
Prosecutors pointed to Rolling Stones' plan to produce a podcast and docuseries on the case and the international attention Young Thug has received since the indictment in several outlets. The district attorney's office also said witnesses expressed safety concerns for themselves and their families.
Though prosecutors are asking the judge to prohibit video, they said audio recordings are acceptable.
These requests will likely be under consideration in the next motion hearing scheduled for Dec. 15. Another motion hearing is also scheduled for Dec. 17.