Graduating PhD student studies the danger of using rap music in criminal trials

Negative perceptions of rap music and rappers threaten to sway juries in criminal trials.

In cases across the U.S., criminal investigators have been treating rap lyrics as confession evidence rather than as art or entertainment. The aspiring rappers’ lyrics – found on scraps of paper, in online rap videos, on Facebook posts and in other places – become courtroom evidence.

But a major concern is that negative stereotypes about rap music influence how jurors evaluate the lyrics and the people who write them. Jurors are allowed to examine lyrics for intent to commit a crime, but pervasive associations of rap with criminality mean they might consciously or unconsciously also use the lyrics to determine whether a defendant is the type of person who would commit a crime – even though the lyrics aren’t allowed to be used in that way.

Adam Dunbar, who is graduating with a PhD in Criminology, Law and Society, has studied the intricacies of how people perceive rap music – and how those perceptions result in rap music being a potentially discriminatory form of evidence in criminal trials. People bring a certain baggage, which is often racial, to their understanding of rap lyrics and rappers.

Data mining leading to new type of immigration enforcement

June 2017

Police departments and federal agencies today have access to huge databases -- financial records, phone calls, vehicle records and criminal justice files -- that didn't exist two decades ago. And Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are now mining those vast quantities of data to identify and locate undocumented immigrants to arrest. The data are aiding a rise in immigration raids under President Trump's administration.

"The raids are different than before, they’re very targeted," Ana Muniz, an assistant professor of Criminology, Law & Society, told The Intercept. "Any sort of motivated agent has a way to access information from one system to another. The arrests we’re seeing in Los Angeles are of ICE agents sent out to detain or one two people with specific standing removal orders, that requires a detailed level of intelligence, whereas during the 1990s and 2000s, the raids were more location-based."

False memories led to guilt admissions in 1989 Nebraska murder

June 2017

In 1989, a Nebraska woman was murdered. Six people were accused; five took pleas and, over the course of suggestive interrogations, came to believe they were guilty. Two generated memories of the crime that embedded so deep they could be vividly recalled decades later.

But none of the six accused were responsible. It was the largest DNA exoneration involving false memory in U.S. judicial history.

Latino students thrive at UCI, which is named a Hispanic Serving Institution

June 2017

Angela Vera, the daughter of a Mexico-born carpenter with a second-grade education, was able to thrive at UC Irvine because of the financial aid, academic support and leadership opportunities at the university.

"I always thought UC was for students up here," Vera, who will complete a double major in criminology, law and society and social ecology next year, told the LA Times. "I never saw myself as capable."

John Hipp wins Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Fostering Undergraduate Research

June 2017

John Hipp, professor of criminology, law and society, has won the 2017 Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Fostering Undergraduate Research. The award is a recognition of his outstanding work in mentoring undergraduate students engaged in research. Hipp is the director of the Metropolitan Futures Initiative.

The award is granted by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.

Two CLS Faculty are amongst recipients of the 21017 CDASA Small Grant Competition

We are pleased to announce that Professor Hipp and Professor Sugie are amongst recipients of the 2017 CDASA Small Grant Competition. 

John Hipp (Criminology, Law & Society) Dimensions of demographic change and neighborhood crime in Los Angeles from 1990-2010

Naomi Sugie  (Criminology, Law & Society) and Rachel Goldberg (Sociology)  Digging into “Big Data”: A Workshop on Analysis of Intensive Longitudinal Data in Social Science Research.