There Are No Happy Endings in the Tory Lanez Verdict

Tory-Megan-essay.jpg Tory-Megan-essay – Credit: Photographs in composite by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images; Johnny Nunez/WireImage

Two days before this past Christmas, Tory Lanez was found guilty of three counts related to the July 2020 shooting of Megan Thee Stallion. He now faces over 20 years in prison and deportation to his native Canada. For many, the verdict represents justice for Megan, but others argue that there can be no true retribution for victims of violent crimes. Tory’s jail time does not undo Megan’s physical harm, nor the barrage of mistreatment from people who ridiculed her claims for over two years.

Even after audio was released of Tory appearing to admit to the shooting, some still doubt his guilt. The continued denial is a symptom of a patriarchal society where it remains the default to believe a woman over a man. Everything that has occurred since the shooting and the verdict indicates that the next woman who comes forward about facing violence will experience the same lack of care that Megan felt from her community. And Tory’s anger has led him to become yet another captive of a carceral state which disproportionately warehouses Black people. As a result, there is little, if anything, to celebrate after this verdict because it doesn’t stop this cycle from happening all over again.

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Megan started facing skepticism just days after the shooting. There was little doubt that shots were fired, but the discussion around what happened propagated numerous theories. She was initially prepared to remain silent about the entire situation but outed Tory, explaining that he was “going to these blogs lying and shit.”

After the trial’s conclusion, Tory’s July 2020 jail call to Megan’s friend Kelsey was leaked to the public. On the call, which was played in court, Tory laments that “I’d never do some shit like that… I was just so fucking drunk, n***a, I just didn’t understand what the fuck was going on, bruh. Regardless, that’s not going to make anything right, and that’s not going to make my actions right.” Elsewhere in the conversation, Tory asserted, “if anything, the only one who’s gonna get this backlash is me, it’s not gonna be [Megan].”

But immediately following the shooting, he engineered a wave of negative sentiment toward Megan, rapping “Megan people tryna frame me for a shootin’,” on “Money Over Fallouts” from his 2020 album Daystar. Lanez’s insistence on innocence, and the people he influenced to defend him in the court of public opinion, created a false sense of mystery surrounding a straightforward case. It sparked a free-for-all for those unwilling to hold empathy for Megan.

Abolitionists have argued that this case exemplifies the court system’s inability to properly care for survivors. American prisons are a dehumanizing, torturous environment; few people come out of jail less violent. Nothing that’s happened since the shooting has served Megan’s ability to heal. Tory is off the streets, but for that to have happened, she had to deal with two years of public scrutiny and a trial that was called for her to rehash her pain — and there was still a chance it could have been for naught if Tory was acquitted. That’s why roughly 70% of domestic violence isn’t reported to the police. During the trial, Megan testified that “I can’t hold conversations with people for a long time. I don’t feel like I want to be on this earth. I wish he would have just shot and killed me if I knew I would have to go through this torture.” A society that disparages survivors instead of protecting them is one in need of serious reflection.

Despite Megan’s repeated pleas to be treated with humanity, her ongoing turmoil was tactlessly covered by rap personalities. Joe Budden criticized her for not coming to rap media to discuss the case only to suggest later that she was lying by proclaiming on an episode of his podcast that “the industry found out exactly what went on, so much so, that it was satisfactory to them. [Tory] started popping up with everybody who is brand conscious.” Mid-trial, once his assertion was exposed as speculation, Budden showed his true hand by admitting, “I don’t like that girl.”

And that wasn’t even the worst journalistic failure. In 2021, a rap blog erroneously reported that the case was dropped because they misread the LA County courts website. In another instance, Akademiks reported that a hearing revealed that Tory Lanez’s DNA was not on the gun – before the hearing even started. And while the jury was deliberating their verdict, Say Cheese, No Jumper, and a slew of other rap blogs misread a court document and mistakenly reported that Tory had been acquitted. Court coverage entails research, discernment, and objectivity; the rap blogosphere collectively showed that he had none, and it’s no coincidence that all of his mistakes served to make Tory look better. Still, despite their constant miscues, only Budden has publicly apologized, which means that the next prominent woman who comes forward about violence will likely face the same reckless opportunism. They’ll also be subject to callousness from Megan’s rap peers like 50 Cent, Drake, and others who decided to exploit Megan’s plight for engagement with memes and shock value rap lines.

In an ideal world, the post-trial conversations would consist of Megan’s doubters reckoning with why they were so unwilling to believe her and how that reflects their overall views on women and gender violence. People would lament Tory being a talented individual whose propensity for violence ruined his life and consider what it would take to eradicate the patriarchal violence that had infected him. But instead, conspiracies have persisted that Roc Nation had an employee on the jury and that the Tory Lanez jail call may have been AI-generated to make him look guilty. Kodak Black and Bobby Shmurda publicly railed against Tory’s guilty verdict, with Bobby seemingly blaming Roc Nation for influencing the results. Instead, too many conversations are being led by people who are unaware or apathetic about how they enable domestic violence by readily denying it occurred. Even with Tory being incarcerated, there can be no societal solace when the next survivor faces the beast we’ve created over the past two years.

Megan has not spoken publicly since the verdict, although she has previously said that she wants Tory to be in jail. She got what she wanted, but it’s unlikely that the existential tumult she expressed feeling just last month has instantly dissipated. She has a long road ahead of her, and even after being vindicated in a court of law, the court of public opinion refuses to let her heal peacefully.

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