The Supreme Court on Friday posted audio of Chief Justice John Roberts reciting rap lyrics during oral arguments for a case that examines whether violent or threatening speech posted on social media can be prosecuted.
The case, Elonis v. The United States, centers around a Pennsylvania man who was sentenced to nearly four years in prison in 2010 after he posted violent and threatening messages on Facebook about his estranged wife. The man, Anthony Elonis, claimed he was an aspiring rapper and that he did not intend for the words to be taken seriously. His appeal has made it all the way to the Supreme Court.
During the arguments earlier this week, Roberts pointed to lyrics from a 1997 Eminem rap song “Bonnie and Clyde” and to make the point about whether the artist could be prosecuted.
“You know, ‘Da-da make a nice bed for mommy at the bottom of the lake,’ ‘tie a rope around a rock,’ this is during the context of a domestic dispute between a husband and wife. ‘There goes mama splashing in the water, no more fighting with dad,’” Roberts said before turning to Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben. “You know, all that stuff. Now, under your test, could that be prosecuted?”
Dreeben responded by saying that because the words were recited as a song at a concert, the context provided assurance that it was for entertainment.
The Court will announce its decision next year.
Brenna Williams contributed to this report