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It’s Time to Eliminate ‘Hate Crimes’ From the American Legal System

There are no compelling arguments to violate the sacred tenet of equal justice under the law.

by
Jazz Shaw

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April 23, 2014 - 1:31 pm
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It is unfortunate that events generally require the commission of a crime of unspeakable magnitude in some unsuspecting community before the media is prodded to, yet again, take up the long overdue reexamination of the various “hate crime” laws peppering the legal code of the federal government and most of the states.

Such was the unfortunate case yet again in April of 2014 when Fraizer Glenn Miller, a former grand wizard of the Klan, opened fire at a Jewish community center and an adult care facility in Kansas. Whether Miller “succeeded” in his desire to kill Jews or not (he didn’t, proving that he was not only an anti-Semitic monster, but an intellectual dim bulb to boot) is not germane to today’s discussion. The point being raised here is that his actions, along with the subsequent question of whether or not to charge him with various “hate crimes” at trial, bring us yet again to the issue of whether such legislation has any place in the legal codes of our nation.

For those who wish to spare themselves a lengthy dissertation on the subject, I shall save you some time. It does not.

An incomplete look at this debate may be found in examining two analyses on the subject which were published in the wake of the tragedy. One was from Doug Mataconis, an attorney and author at Outside the Beltway, in which he essentially makes the all-too-common case that “hate crime” laws may be problematic in some ways, but they’re here to stay and the complaints against them are not sufficiently significant to warrant raising much of a fuss. He writes this in response to Michael McGough of the Los Angeles Times.  For his part, McGough takes a stand — albeit a rather soft one – for true equality under the law, but spices it with so many caveats and apologies that the reader is left wondering whether this is a call for action or a request for thesis subjects in a pre-law class.

The arguments being put forward in defense of these blatantly unconstitutional laws are familiar, having been trotted out every time this debate makes the rounds. One of the saddest of them is put forward in a paragraph by Mataconis which needs to be included in full to do it justice.

On some level, the idea of “hate crimes” seems nonsensical. After all, if someone is assaulted, raped, or murdered, it really doesn’t matter why they did committed the act and it’s not intuitive that we should treat some crimes differently because the person who commits them is motivated by animus toward someone based on their race, gender, or religion. However, for roughly the last thirty years we as a society have made the decision that people who commit violent crimes for these reasons should be punished more severely than otherwise would be the case. In many cases, these laws have been passed in response to particularly egregious crimes, such as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr cases, which led to the passage of the 2009 Federal Law under which Miller could potentially be charged.  Additionally, most states now have some version of “hate crimes” laws.

There’s an interesting phrase in there which bears repeating. [f]or roughly the last thirty years we as a society have made the decision. Presumably the proof of how we as a society have made this decision is to be found in the laws passed by the representatives we elect and the justices sitting in the courts which either validate or dismiss those laws. How this serves as proof of anything in the constitutional arena is a mystery. This is presumably the same system of courts which produced the eventual decision in Kelo. But to reach back for more applicable case law dealing with the equal nature of all citizens under the law, we as a society have previously held some rather odd ideas which were held for far longer than thirty years. And they were upheld in these same courts, such as the final judgment rendered in the Dred Scott decision.  So enough of the talk of the infallibility of group consensus at any given moment.

But this aspect of the argument only scratches at the surface of the underlying questions. Is it constitutional to punish someone for what they are thinking at the moment they commit what is obviously a crime? And the point which perhaps cuts even more to the heart of things would be to ask if any person is deserving of more or less protection under the law based on some demographic difference between themselves and another potential victim.  McGough quotes himself from an article some years back and makes a mostly forceful case.

[H]ate-crime laws may have the paradoxical effect of privileging some victims of violence over others. I put it this way: “If their overarching purpose is to affirm the equality of all people, then the law should punish all assaults the same, regardless of the race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability or veteran status of the victim. The ‘protected class’ should be human beings.”

This winning argument is dismissed on all major points, not only by Mataconis, but by an entire class of people who seem willing to turn a blind eye to that fundamental truth in the interest of political expediency.  But Doug goes the extra mile to additionally dismiss the concept of people remaining free to think, believe or say whatever they wish, even while committing vile acts which rightly deserve swift and harsh punishment.

Although McGough does not make the argument, another common objection  to hate crimes laws is that the criminalize thought rather than action. However, there’s little actual merit in this argument. If Miller is charged with a crime, for example,  it won’t be because of what he was thinking, but because of the fact that he acted on those thoughts. In fact, if it were to somehow happen that Miller were acquitted of the charges against him then it would be impossible to convict him of the underlying hate crime. In other words, hate crime laws can generally be seen as sentencing enhancements rather than  separate crimes in and of themselves. In that respect, they’re no different than the statutes passed in many states which provide for longer sentences if someone commits a crime such as burglary with a gun.

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Top Rated Comments   
Crimes are against individuals not demographic groups. There is no need nor a legitimate reason for the category of "hate crime."
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
A hate crime is a thought crime.
And laws like hate crime laws are one way streets. They are enforced like a cudgel against whites, Christians, heterosexuals, and ignored when the perpetrator is black, or Muslim, or homosexual, or whichever "oppressed" grouping is in style at the time.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is NOT time to eliminate "hate crimes" from the legal lexicon - it's way PAST time.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (32)
All Comments   (32)
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13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
“Hate Crime” legislation was just another (failed) effort for force Incompetent Prosecutors and Judges to use their heads and apply the law properly…but like any other well intentioned (or sinister, take your pick) excuse we make to explain away the lack of Competency, Character, and Responsible Judgment in the people we choose to BE Judges, tying their hands to a new “catagory” of statute to compensate for their Basic Incompetency, provides no solution TO that incompetency….

Compare their “discrete use” of “Hate Crimes” with any garden variety “zero tolerance” atrocity committed by a school against a bright young student….notice a trend don’t you?

Only “certain” students (*cough* white *cough*) get Criminal Charges and expulsion when The Administration finds a utility knife…..that was in a locked toolbox, in his fathers truck, in the parking lot, that the kid happened to drive to school that day…the potential for harm arising from the gruesome misuse of the crow bar, hammer and power saws also present in the truck (and the school custodians closet?) never enters the conversation….

Even AFTER a thorough investigation is complete (was the kid up to something nefarious, or is his dad just a carpenter?) we destroy his life by shoe-horning what was, into what was NOT, because "the rules are".....all while regularly turning a blind eye to the MOST PREVELANT types of REAL racism, and REAL school violence, in the name of “Social Justice” and “Proportional Disciplinary Actions”

That being said, I AM in favor of using the “motivation” behind someone’s activity as an aggravating or mitigating factor in Criminal Sentencing…. and “hate” is a legitimate factor…

Spray painting “led zepplin rules!” or “I luv Beibe!r” in a synagogue parking lot (because it’s the largest piece of “canvas” you could find?) IS NOT the same thing as writing “die kikes die” and leaving cans of OVEN CLEANER behind as a memento.

The shallow, thoughtless and rude need one type of lesson from society, the really hateful need quite another.

And long ago, Prosecutors and Judges used to have, and were expected to use, (wait for it!)THEIR SOUND JUDGEMENT when acting on our behalf, using the reasonable and efficient tools we gave them... criminal law for Vandalism, Assault, Rape, Murder….with RANGES of penalties…like probation to six months , 1-5 years, 20 to life, etc. etc….so the Prosecutor and the Judge could apply them proportionally, ETHICALLY, depending on the severity of the crime and the “intensity” of the criminals motivation.

A drive-by shooting and defending your home against an intruder are never the same thing, no matter WHAT color combination any of the perps and victims are.

That those charged with such meeting these responsibilities have utterly failed us in doing their jobs ethically and with competence is the real problem…and ”Hate Crime” legislation (probably by intent) is just another POLITICAL TOOL they use against at large, to press a particular POLITICAL agenda upon us…

Yes, “Hate” should be a factor in sentencing…but if we need “special laws” for it, then something has obviously wrong with our system.


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13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hate Crime Law could disappear so fast you'd wonder if they ever really existed.
All it would(will) take is for courts to start holding Liberals guilty of Hate Crimes against Conservatives..............POOF!!! Gone in a flash.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
I am afraid the argument here is contrived. The differences between how a person that is accused of killing another is charged are indeed based on the differences of their thought process at the time of the killing. The spectrum from an accidental killing (no thought of killing another), through negligent manslaughter or homicide (no caring about killing another), to first degree murder (intentional killing of another) - these are ALL based on the thought process of the killer at the time.

On the other hand, the idea of making an ADDITIONAL charge based on the thought process - this is the true way in which hate crime laws are invalid. The "hate" of some other demographic group should just be part of the actual charge - e.g., in a first degree homicide case, the intentional part happened to be because they were Black, or White, or Asian; the crime is intentional homicide, exactly the same as if they killed for insurance money, or on a contract, or marital infidelity.

In the penalty phase, however, the actual motivation should be considered. The purpose of the "punishment" is to protect society from a repetition of the crime. A negligent killer may be deterred by a term of imprisonment; an intentional killer may or may not be. Continuing the example, a person killing for marital infidelity - we cannot say whether or not the circumstance may occur again, and can reasonably consider life with possibility of parole (with lifetime supervision). A person killing for race, gender, religion - the circumstance will definitely occur again; the criminal will inevitably encounter the same demographic again if they are released. In that case, should we not consider death, or life without parole, or at least extremely reliable proof that the same thing will not happen again? Of course, this consideration should never be based on whether the victim happens to be a member of a special "protected" group - if race was a factor, it is any race; if religion was a factor, it is any religion (or lack of same); if sexual orientation was a factor, it is any orientation (or, again, lack of same).
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Fail. The differences you cite, in fact, define the crime itself. It's quite obvious that to murder someone deliberately is a different crime than forgetting to set your parking brake, even if the end result is an dead child in both cases.

Hate crime legislation is about the KIND of motive, not the presence or even the degree of motive. It is PURELY political.

13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
I swear, the abundance of lawyers will strangle our civilization.
Soon they'll be reading the entrails of birds, which only they can interpret.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
"...the torture and killing of Matthew Shepard. The details are too gruesome and too well known to detail here, but that tragic story resulted in yet another layer of “hate crimes” in our legal system."

A book came out last year that Shepard's brutal murder was really a drug deal gone bad and one of the killers had actually been a sex partner.

Or something. FWIW.

Every murder is a hate crime of sorts, and proliferation of self-righteous, politically correct categories of crime only muddies the legal waters.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
As to -
"It’s Time to Eliminate ‘Hate Crimes’ From the American Legal System"
YES.
All crime is hate. Never heard of a "love crime".
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wrong. Negligent homicide, manslaughter and causing death by dangerous driving are not hate crimes. Crimes of stupidity, sure. I'm sure there are other examples, particularly involving tax matters.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Some pigs are more equal than other pigs."

How do we know this?

There is a message on the side of the barn.

"Resistence is futile. You will be assimilated."
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
The concept ranks right up there with the Fugitive Slave Law and Alien & Sedition.
All of which would have been knee slapping, show stopping laugh lines if only they weren't so bloody horrific.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
As with the other commentators here, I agree that Hate Crime laws should have been eliminated a long time ago. Here is why I don't think it will be easy to eliminate them.

Our current legal system is designed to get around constitutional safeguards. We have enacted so many laws, our grand jury process is little more than a rubber stamp, and the standard operating procedure of prosecutors is to throw as many charges (with the additional threat of maximum sentence if a trial happens) as possible at a defendant in the hopes of getting a plea; a win for the prosecutor and a feather in his cap for potential political career.

Why would those controlling our legal system want to get rid of such a good tool like hate crimes? It can not only be used to threaten greater sentences but can also be use to threaten with media exposure.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's ham sandwich nation all the way down.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
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