NEW YORK — Rapper Shyne's lyrics took center stage during a pretrial hearing in Manhattan court Wednesday (January 10) that also saw the rapper unsuccessfully attempt to fire his own lawyers for an alleged conflict of interest.
Despite heated arguments from lawyers on both sides, Judge Charles Solomon declined to rule on whether lyrics from Shyne's self-titled debut album can be used against him in cross-examination during his upcoming trial on attempted murder charges, which stem from a shooting in Manhattan's Club New York in December 1999. Solomon asked for additional written arguments on the issue.
"You [would] put in the mind of every artist that you've got to be careful what you write about, because it goes to the question of your intent," said Murray Richman, one of Shyne's lawyers, adding that using the lyrics in court would violate the First Amendment.
"Here's what we're going to put in the mind of every artist — don't shoot people," prosecutor Matthew Bodganos responded. "And if you do it, don't brag about it, whether you brag about it speaking, whether you brag about it writing, whether you brag about it singing. You don't acquire some extra protection because you're an artist."
Bodganos said he is not required by law to tell defense lawyers in advance whether he actually plans to use Shyne's lyrics in the trial. Richman, who argued the opposite, also suggested that Shyne might not have written some of the lyrics on his own album.
Crime and guns are central to the lyrics of Shyne's album, which was released last year, but the rapper has said that the scenarios in songs such as "Bad Boyz" and "Bang" are fictional.
Earlier in the hearing, a glum, gray-suited Shyne — who shook his head in apparent disgust during the discussion of his lyrics — asked the judge to allow him to fire Richman and his other lawyer, Ian Niles.
Shyne (born Jamal Barrow) cited a conflict of interest: Niles formerly represented rapper Gavin "Pretty Boy" Marchand — brother of rapper Foxy Brown (born Inga Marchand) and a friend of Shyne — who is expected to testify for the prosecution. Judge Solomon summarily denied his request.
Shyne will be back in court Thursday (January 11), along with Sean "Puffy" Combs and bodyguard Anthony "Wolf" Jones, who face weapons and bribery charges in connection with the Club New York incident. Jury selection in the case is scheduled to begin January 17.