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Possible racism, DNA warrant new trial for rapper Tory Lanez: Lawyer

Rappers Daystar “Tory Lanez” Peterson and Megan Thee Stallion (Lanez screenshot via Breakfast Club Power 105.1 FM; Thee Stallion screenshot via CBS News)

Rapper Tory Lanez could win a new trial in Los Angeles County for the shooting of Megan Thee Stallion over DNA evidence that was mischaracterized at trial and the use of lyrics that can threaten to “racialize” proceedings, according to his lawyer, Jose Baez.

Baez spoke to Law&Crime’s Angenette Levy Tuesday about his client’s request for a new trial. Lanez, whose legal name is Daystar Peterson, was found guilty of three felonies, including assault with a semi-automatic handgun, at a trial last December. Baez was put in the media spotlight after winning an acquittal for Casey Anthony in 2011 after she was accused of murdering her daughter, Caylee, years earlier in Florida.

Baez and Los Angeles area defense attorney Matthew Barhoma are representing Lanez and filed a motion for a new trial last month. Baez and Barhoma claim prosecutors misrepresented DNA evidence at trial and improperly used the rapper’s lyrics and persona against him to win a conviction.

“I think it racializes the proceedings,” Baez said. “Utilizing rap persona, creative expression and rap lyrics puts the accused in a very tough position… it’s infiltrated by extreme racism and should never see the inside of a court.”

Baez called it “appalling” that prosecutors in this case, and others across the country, are using lyrics in rap music as evidence against defendants. It’s an area of the law, Baez said, that hasn’t been litigated.

Last year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act into law that limits using rap lyrics in criminal proceedings. People reported that the new law requires a judge “consider specified factors when balancing the probative value of that evidence against the substantial danger of undue prejudice.”

The use of rap lyrics in a prosecution has also been a contentious issue in Young Thug’s RICO trial in Atlanta.

Baez is also crying foul over DNA evidence that he said was misrepresented by prosecutors during the trial when they argued he could not be ruled out as a contributor to DNA on the gun.

“He should have been excluded as a contributor in this specific case,” Baez said. “Prosecutors basically used and argued multiple times in this trial that he could not say his DNA was not on the gun. In fact, that’s not true. His DNA was not on the gun. They didn’t have a profile.

“He wasn’t even considered a minor contributor, and any random African-American person from the community could have, could be a more likely contributor than Tory Lanez.”

Megan Thee Stallion testified that Lanez, a fellow rapper and her former friend, fired at her feet from a car after they argued, and she’d asked to be let out of the vehicle near a home where she was staying. She said Lanez begged her not to tell anyone he had shot her.

When asked about Megan Thee Stallion’s testimony, Baez said she had given different accounts of what had happened, including claiming that she had stepped on glass.

Meanwhile, Lanez has posted an open letter to Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón on his Instagram account, claiming he is wrongfully convicted and that prosecutors “hid” evidence in the case.

Meghan Thee Stallion spoke about her experience in an interview with Elle last week. She said Lanez repeatedly joked about her trauma since the shooting.

“Not only did I survive being shot by someone I trusted and considered a close friend, but I overcame the public humiliation of having my name and reputation dragged through the mud by that individual for the entire world to see,” she said.

A hearing is scheduled for May 8 on the motion for a new trial. Baez said he and Barhoma would supplement their motion and file exhibits and other information before then.

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