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Hate Crimes:

I know the standard arguments for treating "hate crimes," i.e., crimes in which the victim was chosen partly based on race, religion, or sexual orientation, worse than similar non-hate crimes -- they betray an especially depraved mental state, and they are more socially destructive because they make an entire identity group feel threatened. Yet while these arguments are not implausible, I've never found them terribly persuasive. I agree that the law may legitimately look to the criminal's motive, which is why we treat murder motivated by money differently from murder motivated by an understandable though still wrong desire for revenge, or murder motivated by compassion for the suffering; I just think that the motives in hate crimes tend to be not materially worse than many other bad motives.

In any event, I don't want to get into the theoretical argument much here, but to point to a specific example, and ask supporters of hate crimes laws what they think. My sense is that it shows that hate crimes, hateful as they are, are chiefly hateful because they are crimes, not because they are hate crimes; perhaps I'm wrong; but one way or another it seems like an interesting test case:

A homeless black man who allegedly killed a woman at a Westchester County mall told cops she "had to die" because she was white and he was fighting a race war, it was revealed yesterday.

"I never seen her before and I didn't care," Phillip Grant, 43, said of Connie Russo Carriero, 56. "As long as she had blond hair and blue eyes, she had to die."

The legal secretary and mother of two grown children was stabbed to death while walking to her car in the Galleria Mall parking garage in White Plains last Wednesday.

Grant['s] . . . shocking statements were videotaped by police . . . . He told cops he knew he would get caught for the crime, saying, "I want the death penalty. I want to die. But I wanted to kill somebody white first." . . .

Sounds like quite a depraved murder. But is it really more depraved than a murder committed because the killer felt like killing a rich person, an ugly person, or just a person? (If you think murder is a special case because all murders except those in which the motivation is somehow a mitigating factor should be punished severely, imagine that this involved a beating rather than a murder.) And I realize that such hate crimes might exacerbate racial tensions, but would prosecuting them as a special kind of crime ease those tensions, or exacerbate them more?

Craig Oren (mail):
I'm hardly a specialist on this, but is it possible to argue that a racially motivated crime is more apt to spur retaliatory crimes. It's easier to see Mr. White Psycho reacting to a crime meant to kill a white person than one meant to kill an ugly person.

Is it also possible to argue that a racially-motivated crime results in greater animus against the "committing" group than another crime. We think badly of this gentleman no matter his motivation, but do we think worse of black people to know that a black person is capable of a racially-motivated crime like this?

My questions here are not meant rhetorically, and I'd welcome comments by those who have thought about this harder than I have.
7.8.2005 5:51pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
So I take it from the article that he was NOT charged with a hate crime?
7.8.2005 6:05pm
Brian C (mail):
The example isn't a very good one. You take an absolutely horrible crime and say "would it be more horrible if it were motivated by bias?" The crime is already so horrible that virtually nobody would say that it could be much worse. Hate crime laws aren't needed for vicious murders, which already come with harsh penalties. They are needed to differentiate between a run-of-the-mill battery and a fag bashing. Sure, the nutjob who murders an old lady for sexual kicks is just as bad (or worse) than the guy who murders an old lady because of her race --- but is the guy who knocks over a guy to steal his wallet just as bad as the guy who beats up a terrified teenager just because the kid is gay?
7.8.2005 6:09pm
Challenge:
I think when a hate crime is intended to terrorize, harrass, or intimidate a distinct group--whatever that group may be--then that is a special case. Often, though not always, hate crimes share this attribute.

Further, ff a society suffers from a particular kind of discrimination more than others, it may pay to punish that behavior more severely, as to further stigmatize and deter that behavior. But this can also be divisive. As your case points out, whites feel like they're not equal under the law, that hate directed at THEM is not the same as hate directed at minorities.

Like I said, a lot of hate crimes are intended to intimidate a racial, ethnic, or sexual group (even if in majority). When that occurs, I think that can be considered an additional crime, or an aggravating factor. But it's best to keep this sort of thing applicable in a general sense, or it could prove divisive, and certainly illogical.
7.8.2005 6:15pm
Ken from CA (mail) (www):
I think this case may throw the mental illness issue into the mix, which complicates the analysis. That said, I think crimes and society's response to them happen in a context, not in a vaccuum. The context is that our country has had a problem with people being targeted for killing because of their race, and not so much because of their wealth or their ugliness. The social judgment that race-motivated killings are especially evil and dangerous springs from a history of lynchings and such. The Trumps of the nation, by contrast, have not faced a history of being hanged based on their haircuts or pocketbooks.
7.8.2005 6:15pm
Challenge:
Brian C,

Are you saying all hate crimes should be treated equally? That is less controversial than saying only certain groups get protected status. That creates more ill will than it eliminates.
7.8.2005 6:19pm
J.Maestro (www):
I'd rather see criminal law focus only on specific bahaviors/outcomes. What is the methodology for inquiring into a perpetrator's motivations? Can such methods ever be applied uniformly?

The original post mentions the rich and the ugly, among others. Does any class of person get protected status? Laws like these make class-delineations de jure -- and that only raises the stakes in an already-competitive political spoils system. (Personally, I'm lobbying for protection for balding, somewhat-pudgy computer geeks: "Stop the hate; no more Unabombers!")

That comment was only half in jest. Why weren't the Unabomber's acts considered hate crimes? What about anti-globalization window-smashers who hate capitalists?

Criminal law just isn't competent to evaluate motivations at that level. And prosecutorial discretion is political enough without all this.
7.8.2005 6:32pm
Tony (mail):
Hate crimes are given special consideration because they have an effect beyond the immediate victim. Straight white males have a hard time identifying with this. As a gay man, the murder of another man because he is gay has a much stronger effect than the murder of a random stranger; the assailant is primarily seeking to undermine the security of an entire group, and this motive overshadows the desire to kill that particular person. That's what makes it a qualitatively different kind of crime, and one worthy of special consideration.

In your case, it is well known that blacks are prosecuted to a greater extent than white murderers, and I would argue that this relates to exactly the same thing a gay man feels when another gay man is murdered, though in cases like this it is generally not articulated. It is arguably the fear of crime by blacks against white people in general that leads juries to convict more often and for judges to hand down stronger sentences. So your example is not hypothetical - it is already, in effect, being treated as a hate crime under the current system.
7.8.2005 6:35pm
Maniakes (mail) (www):
The most persuasive argument I've heard for hate crime laws is that hate crimes have the additional effect of intimidating members of the targeted class.

The most persuasive argument I've heard against hate crimes as currently implemented is that they allow de-facto double jeopardy (e.g. the officers tried for the Rodney King beatings were aquited of assault, then tried again in federal court and convicted of violating a hate crime statute).

I'm inclined to favor listing hate crimes as an aggravating circumstance to the base crime (harrassment, assault, murder, etc), but opposed creating a seperate charge for the hate crime that can be tried seperately for the same act.
7.8.2005 6:37pm
Challenge:
"white males have a hard time identifying with this."

So whites have no fear of being killed or beaten by minorities? Wait, doesn't that conflict with another liberal axiom?
7.8.2005 6:43pm
Drew (mail):
Hmm two points that I think should be made, though I'm not sure exactly how they bear upon the question,

1)Crimes agains the rich can be considered distinct from hate crimes in that being rich is a choice whereas race is not.

2)A historical reason for treating hate crimes differently is that often local authorities (who are supposed to deal with crime) will not prosecute, or will not lay sever enough charges.

I'm not personally convinced that either or both of these justify more severe punishment but they are worth discussing.
7.8.2005 6:48pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
"it is well known that black[ murderers] are prosecuted to a greater extent than white murderers"

Sorry... not well known enough that I've heard it. You got a source? I just find it hard to believe that there are all that many cases of murder where someone isn't "prosecuted." Are you taking cases with mitigating circumstances and calling them "unprosecuted?"

I don't have a citation for my "facts" either... just what I've heard. Your assertion surprised me though.
7.8.2005 6:50pm
frank cross (mail):
The evidence is not that black murderers are prosecuted to a greater extent, it is that crimes against black victims are prosecuted to a lesser extent. There's some pretty good statistical evidence for this, last I saw. The same study found that race of the perpetrator made no difference in prosecution or penalty.
7.8.2005 6:53pm
John Thacker (mail):
In your case, it is well known that blacks are prosecuted to a greater extent than white murderers.

Yes, it is. However, since the overwhelming majority of murders are between people of the same race, it's also well known that murderers of black victims are prosecuted to a greater extent than murderers of white victims.

The discussion reminds me of the extra penalties for crack cocaine versus the powdered stuff. At the time that the extra penalties were introduced, they were strongly supported by the Congressional Black Caucus because the victims of crack cocaine were overwhelmingly black too-- just as were the offenders. (And the latter reason became a reason why the sentencing disparities were later called racist.)
7.8.2005 6:55pm
Shelby (mail):
Drew:

1)Crimes agains the rich can be considered distinct from hate crimes in that being rich is a choice whereas race is not.

Not necessarily -- what about inherited wealth? Trust funds? More to the point, does this mean it's not a hate crime to choose victims based on their religion?

2)A historical reason for treating hate crimes differently is that often local authorities (who are supposed to deal with crime) will not prosecute, or will not lay sever enough charges.

But they can do the same with a hate crime. The new category doesn't force the authorities' hands.
7.8.2005 6:59pm
mgarbowski:
Brian C asks: "but is the guy who knocks over a guy to steal his wallet just as bad as the guy who beats up a terrified teenager just because the kid is gay?" I don't know, without some clarification. Why isn't the robbery victim terrified? Because he isn't gay? Because someone didn't call him a name? Why is the robbery victim only knocked over, while the other victim is beaten up? Why is the robbery victim a generic guy, while the other victim is specifically a teenager? Loaded hypotheticals do not advance the analysis.

More seriously, and addressing the topic generally and some other comments: in another recent real world NY incident, a group of white young men severely beat up a young black man in a neighborhood that had a famous white on black racial beating almost 20 years ago. In the recent event, there is evidence that the victim was targeted because he was black, but it is also admitted that he and 2 buddies were cruising the streets of this neighborhood at 3 am looking for a car to steal. Hate crime? Maybe? But it also demonstrates that non-racial crimes inspire hate crimes. When interviewed, residents of the neighborhood complained about a rash of push-in burglaries by black men. For all I know these were rumors, but, if true, it is evidence that burglaries should be given higher punishments because they inspire hate crimes. But where does our merry-go-round of ever higher punishments end?

Crimes in the subway make people less willing to take mass transit, or work odd hours, and are therefore a drain on the economy and bad for the environment. In New York, the class of people who take the subway is pretty big, as is the class of people who are afraid to ride the subway. Should we have higher punishments for subway crimes? Burglaries make everyone who is not homeless feel threatened, in their homes. There's pretty much no larger class and no interest more important than that. So apart from arguably inspiring hate crimes, burglaries should have higher punishments because they create fear among almost everyone, by the hate crime logic.

Unless, of course, the key issue is whether the criminal cares that a class of people are affected. I expect burglars don't give a damn about how they make people feel in their homes. That is arguably a distinction from hate crimes, but does that make the fact that they have an actual affect on that class of people less important? Moreover, if the intent to cause a general effect is important, should it be an element of the crime? Should the prosecution have to prove that the defendant not only was motivated to hurt an individual and displayed a group animus, but also that the defendant thereby intended to strike fear into the group generally? And wouldn't this require pattern and practice evidence that I'm pretty sure is not currently required by hate crim legislation?
7.8.2005 7:05pm
Scott Wood (mail):
What kind of work has been done to identify whether treating something as a hate crime serves to reduce the incidence of hate crimes?
7.8.2005 7:29pm
Keith Hilzendeger:
Murder for money isn't treated differently than murder for revenge or mercy killings. In Arizona, at least, murder for money and murder for revenge are both capital crimes. And if your mercy killing isn't all that merciful, it's a capital crime too. Just ask Wendi Andriano - who's on Arizona's death row for poisoning, stabbing, and bludgeoning her terminally ill husband to death in 2000.

In Arizona, the race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation of the victim aren't aggravating factors that allow the prosecution to seek the death penalty. The age of the victim (70 or over or under 16) and the fact that the victim was a police officer (and the defendant knew it) are. Maybe this is as it should be. These are products of a valid legislative choice, just as hate crimes laws are. If not the legislature, then who should say whether one motive to commit crime is "worse" than another?
7.8.2005 7:44pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
> I think when a hate crime is intended to terrorize, harrass, or intimidate a distinct group--whatever that group may be--then that is a special case. Often, though not always, hate crimes share this attribute.

Cross-burning being the canonical example of "intended to terrorize ...".

It's interesting that a religious icon gets such protection.

Can flag-burning be a terrorist act? Does the answer depend on which flat?
7.8.2005 7:51pm
Brian C:
"Brian C,

Are you saying all hate crimes should be treated equally? That is less controversial than saying only certain groups get protected status. That creates more ill will than it eliminates."

Actually the present statues don't say that only certain groups get protected status.

They distinguish based on bias, not group membership. If a gay person beats up a straight person because we're sick of you breeding all over the place -- then it's a bias crime eligible for an enhancement. Same as if a straight person beats up a gay person. If a black person beats up a white person -- same deal. Everybody falls under the protection of hate crime laws because everybody is potentially a victim based on race, sexual orientation, etc......

I wasn't really saying anything other than the motivations between most battery and hate-motivated battery are morally distinguishable and that Prof. V.'s hypo is a bad one. I've been mugged for money, and I've been fag-bashed -- believe me, the latter is far worse than the former. That' doesn't, however, automatically justify the sentence enhancements.

I'm not a huge fan of hate crime enhancements because I don't think they do much good. It's not much of a disincentive and it tends to create a tremendous amount of navel-gazing, endless debate, and general balloon fuel for what I see as a pretty speculative return.

"I don't know, without some clarification. Why isn't the robbery victim terrified? Because he isn't gay? Because someone didn't call him a name? Why is the robbery victim only knocked over, while the other victim is beaten up? Why is the robbery victim a generic guy, while the other victim is specifically a teenager? Loaded hypotheticals do not advance the analysis."

Because I'm being a drama queen. Touche.

OK, equalize the hypos. Random guy gets beat up in an alley by five drunks leaving a bar and just looking for a fight. Guy gets fag bashed by five thugs in an alley. Same injuries.

Both victims suffer physically. Both may suffer a certain sense of apprehension in the future. But the random guy should (at least rationally) know that he was simply the victim of bad luck. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The gay victim, on the other hand, reasonably suffers from heightened anxiety due to the knowledge that he was targeted due to a personal trait. Furthermore other people with the trait share that anxiety, which is more pronounced due to the fact that it is not an anxiety shared by the general population.

It might make more sense to provide enhancements for those who commit battery or murder with the intent to hurt or terrify, rather than with some other intent (such as to steal). That would clear up the problems like the creatures/perpetrators in the Johnson incident in Texas being treated as if their crime was no worse than a barroom brawl without creating any classifications.
johnson story
7.8.2005 7:59pm
grahamc (mail):
Hate crime laws are needed to stamp out crimes which would otherwise attract little or no penalty. There is little or no point applying classifying a murder that will clearly see the perpetrator locked up forever or executed as a hate crime.
7.8.2005 9:31pm
Challenge:
"> I think when a hate crime is intended to terrorize, harrass, or intimidate a distinct group--whatever that group may be--then that is a special case. Often, though not always, hate crimes share this attribute.

"Cross-burning being the canonical example of "intended to terrorize ...".

It's interesting that a religious icon gets such protection.

Can flag-burning be a terrorist act? Does the answer depend on which flat?"

Thanks for the response. I meant in a commission of a crime. Assault, vandalism, murder. The quesion on whether SPEECH is a "hate crime" is a different one than I was addressing.
7.8.2005 10:36pm
Challenge:
"Actually the present statues don't say that only certain groups get protected status.

They distinguish based on bias, not group membership. If a gay person beats up a straight person because we're sick of you breeding all over the place -- then it's a bias crime eligible for an enhancement. Same as if a straight person beats up a gay person. If a black person beats up a white person -- same deal. Everybody falls under the protection of hate crime laws because everybody is potentially a victim based on race, sexual orientation, etc...... "

Interesting. First, are you sure that all statutes are contructed in the way you have described? Second, how would you feel about a "hate crime" law being used against, say, a black man who kills a KKK member? I am with Eugene. I don't think motives are off limits for consideration, I am just unsure how much enshrining these considerations in a statute actually improve the situation.
7.8.2005 10:42pm
Dick King:
I don't know. Hate crimes smell like crimethink [thought crime] to me. In Brian's hypothetical I would certainly expect other people in the neighborhood to have substantial apprehension if a particular bar was spilling drunken thugs into the street.

-dk
7.8.2005 10:45pm
Challenge:
"Both victims suffer physically. Both may suffer a certain sense of apprehension in the future. But the random guy should (at least rationally) know that he was simply the victim of bad luck. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The gay victim, on the other hand, reasonably suffers from heightened anxiety due to the knowledge that he was targeted due to a personal trait. Furthermore other people with the trait share that anxiety, which is more pronounced due to the fact that it is not an anxiety shared by the general population."

OK, so are you saying ANY group which is specifically targeted because of their group identification receive the same treatment? That is not what your prior posts suggested. Here's a hypothetical for you: White straight male is beat up because he's a white straight male. Is that a hate crime? Or how about this one: black guys kills a KKK member. Is that a hate crime too?
7.9.2005 12:33am
PLM (mail):
As to whom the "hate crime" is directed, don't forget that in the Supreme Court case of Wisconsin v. Mitchell the African American defendant convicted of a hate crime had (with others) set upon a hapless white youth who was merely passing by, because the defendant had been outraged against whites as a result of a recent viewing of "Missippi Burning." The movie, of course, was protected by the 1st Amendment (as it should be).
7.9.2005 2:57am
HankP:
IANAL, but I've supported hate crime enhancements to criminal laws because the evidence of malice aforethought indicates premeditation. Just as murder is punished differently based on the motive for the murder (personal gain, emotional response, self defense, accident) so should other criminal acts. If someone says repeatedly that they hate Jews, then beats up a Jew, that indicates premeditation to me.
7.9.2005 3:36am
Brian C:

Challenge sez:


"OK, so are you saying ANY group which is specifically targeted because of their group identification receive the same treatment? That is not what your prior posts suggested."


My prior quote sez:

.

If a gay person beats up a straight person because we're sick of you breeding all over the place -- then it's a bias crime eligible for an enhancement. Same as if a straight person beats up a gay person. If a black person beats up a white person -- same deal. Everybody falls under the protection of hate crime laws because everybody is potentially a victim based on race, sexual orientation, etc.....


So I think I already answered that. Not every group is covered, but all people are coverd based on the described traits (everybody has a race, everybody has a sex, etc...) And yes, that's how all hate crime laws work. So if your straght guy gets beat up because he's straight, that would fall under the statute.

As for beating somebody up based on Klan membership, I don't think that would be covered since stupid outfits and cross burnings are not inherent to the white race - some hate crime laws may cover political affiliation (or stupidity), but otherwise I don't think beating up a klansman beause he's a klansman would be covered.


I don't know. Hate crimes smell like crimethink [thought crime] to me. In Brian's hypothetical I would certainly expect other people in the neighborhood to have substantial apprehension if a particular bar was spilling drunken thugs into the street.


You can always go to another bar, but it's a bit tougher to turn white.

I can certainly understand the argument that hate crime laws don't work, or that the gov't shouldn't be policing animus, but suggesting that a random mugging is just as bad as a targeted assault based on an inherent personal characteristic seems silly to me.
7.9.2005 4:37pm
Mark:
I'm not sure how I feel about hate crime laws, but I think treating hate crimes differently from regular murder/assault/vandalism is similar to treating a terrorist attack differently than a regular multiple murder.

When there was a shooting at the El Al terminal in CA a while back, there was a big thing about whether it was 'terrorism' or plain 'murder'. People's opinion on the matter depended on what they believed the attacker's frame of mind and intent was, just like a hate crime.
7.10.2005 12:15am
markm (mail):
"2)A historical reason for treating hate crimes differently is that often local authorities (who are supposed to deal with crime) will not prosecute, or will not lay sever enough charges."

Have hate crime laws ever made one bit of difference in this case? If they ignore the basic crime because of prejudice against the victim, won't they just ignore the hate crime also?
7.10.2005 1:30pm
Challenge:
Mark,

I agree in most cases, and said so early on this thread. But certainly there are many a "hate crime" where there is no intimidation or harrassment of a group. One can look at intent or both intent and result, but not EVERY "hate crime" is either intended to intimdate, or actually intimidates a group. Indeed, many hate crimes are just in part motivated by "bias."

So, why not just have a generally applicable intimidation/harrassment statute? Why does it have to apply to every case there was "bias", even when there is no intimidation of a group?
7.10.2005 3:05pm
Challenge:
"As for beating somebody up based on Klan membership, I don't think that would be covered since stupid outfits and cross burnings are not inherent to the white race - some hate crime laws may cover political affiliation (or stupidity), but otherwise I don't think beating up a klansman beause he's a klansman would be covered."

So you've contradicted yourself. You said every "bias" crime is covered under every hate crime statute. If you're going to say immutable traits only (like race, gender, and perhaps sexuality) then I am not sure how, say, religion would be covered.

Now, I don't want to see someone who has a "bias" against the klan being prosecuted under the same laws that anti-semitics or gay-bashers are. But that's why I don't support hate crime laws. Either it applies in both situations, or the law begins to draw lines for favored and protected classes. Is either a better situation than we have today?
7.10.2005 3:11pm
Brian C:

So you've contradicted yourself. You said every "bias" crime is covered under every hate crime statute. If you're going to say immutable traits only (like race, gender, and perhaps sexuality) then I am not sure how, say, religion would be covered.


I didn't say that. I said all people fall under the protection of hate crime laws. I never said all biases are covered. I didn't say all immutable characteristics are covered either (as a matter of fact, I specifically said that stupidity wasn't covered, and stupidity is, unfortunately, pretty immutable).


"Either it applies in both situations, or the law begins to draw lines for favored and protected classes."


No, it doesn't create favored classes. How does a law saying you can't beat up somebody based on race favor one class over another? All races are covered, therefore no race is favored. Simple.

You make the false assumption that a Klansman is the opposite of a black person, but that's just wrong. Black is a race, or skin color, or culture, or whatever. Klan is membership is a stupid club. If we protected Rotarians, but not Klansmen, that would be creating a favored class of club members. If we protected PTA members in a way we didn't protect Boy Scouts, that would be creating a favored class of club members. If we protected black but not white, that would be creating a favored racial class. Your hypo is comparing apples and oranges.

Affirmative action creates a favored class because one class is treated better than another. Hate crime laws, as drafted, do not favor any category over another.

I do agree that a generally applicable intimidation enhancement makes a great deal of sense.
7.10.2005 5:49pm
Challenge:
Well, how do you define which "clubs" receive protection? That seems to me a pretty touchy subject. I did not use the Klan because I thought it was the "opposite" of being black (whatever that even means), I used it because it is something which most would agree falls outside of the intent of "hate crime" laws, but yet it seems to share enough with those crimes as to be eligible.

Religion is simply a self-chosen "club." So is party affiliation. Besides the fact that nearly every person despises the Klan, how is the Klan different? This is what I mean about the trickiness here. Who else isn't covered? Is killing a Black Panther because he's a Black Panther, under your logic, not a hate crime? This whole hate-crime business, then, seems to pit people AGAINST eachother more than it brings them together. It seems to have the potential to create more tension than it eliminates.
7.10.2005 9:49pm
Steve:
An interesting test case is last month's beating of a Satanist in Queens, NY by two teens who have been charged with a hate crime. It's not exactly a test of whether hate crime laws go "both ways" because, presumably, this is a standard case of a religious minority being persecuted. But it's not exactly the textbook religious minority.

As to the question presented, I agree that murder is sufficiently horrible that it doesn't get much more horrible when you insert a lesser motive. But if the example given were an aggravated assault, for example, I could easily envision it becoming much worse, in society's view, if it were racially motivated. Two random guys getting into a fight is not the same as someone going around looking for minorities to beat up.
7.10.2005 10:44pm
Challenge:
"Two random guys getting into a fight is not the same as someone going around looking for minorities to beat up."

First, I agree that in "society's view" racially motivated crimes are likely to be viewed as worse, ceteris paribus. But the analogy you offer here obscures, rather than highlights, the issue. Instead, consider the following: Is someone who targets guys with long hair worse than someone who targets x ethnic group? Is the crime really worse? Now, on a societal level, one may be more corrosive. If racial or ethnic tensions already exist, it may inflame them. But outside of these considerations, is the crime any different? I think the answer, of course, is no. Both are senseless murders/assaults. The societal implications may be different, and society can treat them differently, but is the crime itself different?

The case you mention is interesting. I think those who support hate crime legislation should be mindful of such examples, and be cognizant of how these laws are likely to be used.
7.11.2005 3:11am
PT (mail):
I often wonder where we should draw the line for hate crimes being a violation of the 1st amendment. Obviously, violent acts are already crimes and should be punished under regular law. But at what point are you outlawing an unpopular point of view? By adding hate legislation to the books don't we head down a slippery slope of outlawing certain opinions?
7.11.2005 11:15am
Shawn:
Murder is sufficiently bad that bias should play little role in how it is prosecuted.

However, consider this:

An individual goes to a home in a neighborhood and sprays a big red heart on a garage door. That's vandalism.

An individual goes to a home in a neighborhood known for having jewish residents and sprays a big red swastika on a garage door. Is that more than vandalism?

If the justice system prosecutes the individual as a mere vandal in the latter case does that create a deterent to future criminal activity or does it encourage future criminal behavior?
7.11.2005 11:41am
Challenge:
Shawn,

Again, I don't think any argue that motives--in this case intimidation and harrassment instead of just vandalism--can not be taken into account. The question becomes whether they should be enshrined into law, rather than dealth with by judge and jury discretion. These are difficult things, which groups or classifications receive protected status, and why. It's probably best to leave this to a case-by-case basis. At least that's my opinion.
7.11.2005 12:43pm
Brian C:

Religion is simply a self-chosen "club." So is party affiliation. Besides the fact that nearly every person despises the Klan, how is the Klan different? This is what I mean about the trickiness here. Who else isn't covered? Is killing a Black Panther because he's a Black Panther, under your logic, not a hate crime?


sigh

OK, club memberships are not covered under hate crime laws. Period.

If a black panther gets beat up because he is black, then that's a hate crime. If he gets beat up because he is a black panther, that is not a hate crime. If the perpetrator has no problem with black people, but despises black panthers, then his attacking a black panther would not fall under the statutes.

The Klan is not covered under hate crime laws because the Klan is a club, not a race, religion or sexual orientation.

I agree that religion should be treated like a "club," but religion is often given special preference in American law. Religion is one of the few non-immutable characteristics given special protection under discrimination laws. If you disagree with this, please take it up with Focus on the Family. I'm certainly not going to defend those laws. It totally cranks me off that I can be fired for being gay, but I can't fire an employee for being an anti-gay religious zealot. But whether or not religion should be covered under hate crime laws is a separate issue from whether or not hate crime laws should exist for immutable characteristics.


"This whole hate-crime business, then, seems to pit people AGAINST eachother more than it brings them together. It seems to have the potential to create more tension than it eliminates."


I don't see how. I've yet to meet somebody who wasn't biased then suddenly became a flaming bigot because a hate crime law was passed.


"But at what point are you outlawing an unpopular point of view? By adding hate legislation to the books don't we head down a slippery slope of outlawing certain opinions?"



The ACLU has a pretty sensible position on this. They oppose the introduction of evidence not related in time to the attack as evidence of bias. So, for example, if you are a white guy who attacks a black guy while screaming racial slurs, the slurs are admissible as evidence of bias -- but your collection of Skinhead CD's and white supremacist pamphlets in your closet is not. That helps avoid the "thought crime" issues associated with hate crime laws.
7.12.2005 2:27pm