Monday, May 4, 2009

Why the Hate Crimes Bill Should Become Law

There are a lot of opinions "out there" on hate crimes. My own brother (conservative that he is) is against any form of hate crimes legislation. Many conservatives are. Here is why they are wrong.

A hate crime a crime committed upon one or more people with the larger intent of terrorizing a whole class of people or society. It is a crime against a homosexual just because they are gay. Or a crime committed against somebody because of their race, ethnicity, or religion -- with the intent to scare and/or terrorize folks of said race, ethnicity, or religion. In other words, hate crimes are a form of terrorism.

The usual song & dance from the right is that they are against legislating "hate crimes" any different from any other crime and that everyone should be protected under the law the same way. Well, hate crime laws do protect everyone the same way... unless or until only certain classes of people are explicitly written into the legislation (like the right wants to do). Without that specificity, then there can even be hate crimes against WASPs. But we all know the reasons the right actually opposed hate crime legislation: (1) there are no hate crimes being committed against WASPSs, and (2) they are afraid that "christians" who go too far fighting against those queers gays might be prosecuted.

The other typical response from the right is something like "Hell, ya can't prosecute somebody for what they are thinking?"

Wrong! We do it every day. What do they think the difference between first and second degree murder is? Thought!

So let's all clear our heads and embrace the passing of laws against hate crimes, with appropriate penalties for the terroristic acts that they are.


csm said...

Not that Joe would commit a hate crime (maybe he would, I don't know) but this is an example of the mindset that stops this type of legislation.

Anonymous said...

The left just desires to shutdown free speech. The hate Crimes bill would consider speech to be a crime if they define it as hate. This is just another way of stopping pastors, radio hosts, etc from speaking and shutting down talk radio where the left is not listened to in any large number.
Hate crimes are already covered and the left knows that. This is just a stealth method of controlling speech. Anyone who has seen excerpts in the bill can see the obvious intent.

Just wait for the hollering that would take place when another Republican gets in office and their cat calls are considered a "hate crime". Support would be as enthusiastic.

csm said...

No, Anonymous, you are wrong. The bill does not declare speech a crime. How sad that you think that.

It makes the intent an important part of the crime... as it should be. If Joe runs over his wife by mistake, but Sam plots for weeks how to run over his wife and then does it, we have the same result, but with different intent. And both are punished differently.

A hate crime is one in which a specific class of people is targeting by criminals. For example, killing gays (or beating them up). It could just as easily be killing uneducated anonymous web posters. If the intent of the crimes is to attack a whole class of people - terrorizing them into acting differently, or being treated differently, then it quite simply IS a different crime. By the way, it is quite possible that a criminal torching churches could be committing hate crimes if their intent is to terrorize a certain class (say christians) into acting differently (say not going to church out of fear or to not espouse their beliefs in public).

This really ain't so hard. It is too bad a lot of the Cro Magnons on the right can't engage their brains long enough to understand. Bet they would if they were the ones being targeted.


I dunno, I think you both are wrong.

First off, hating itself is not a crime. Actions can be crimes, but thoughts cannot. Your example, csm, is right to the point. Sam gets the bigger penalty because of his actions(plotting for weeks) as opposed to Joe. If Sam had plotted for weeks and never went through with it, then there is no crime. And if the state wants to send Sam away for a longer time period than Joe, it has to prove through Sam's actions that he plotted for weeks and can't just base their theory on Sam's hatred.

But this has nothing to do with free speech, anon. With all the hatred you can muster, you can say whatever the fuck you want. The KKK can march just about anywhere they want and they are protected by the state. Some religious leaders can and do spout venomous phrases about other people and countries, including this one. I am on record as saying GWB should be executed for treason against this country and it's citizens. Yeah, I hate him and I say so, but that isn't a crime.

My underlying opinion is that crimes are physical actions, provable actions. If an anti-abortion activist practices his sniping skills on an abortion doctor, the crime is murder and this is what he should be tried for; not the hatred he has for abortion doctors. When governments get into the business of discerning citizen's thought processes, we are walking a fine line, especially when the federal government is getting into the crime-fighting business more and more. Let's just say I can see more erosion of minority rights vs mob rule with this one. If you do the crime, you do the time, no matter where your head is at at the time.

So I guess this makes me Cro-Magnon?

csm said...

Perhaps it does, Bawdy.

Your opinion is at least well presented here. It is wrong, but well presented.

You say "My underlying opinion is that crimes are physical actions, provable actions." Well, of course, they are. Don't get caught up in equated the bill with its name. If someone is specifically targeting a certain class of people, that is provable. Just like if someone premeditates, that is provable. And premeditated murder is a "thought" crime, punished differently than other types of murder/manslaughter.

Now to say that you don't think it should be prosecuted differently, OK, then we just have a difference of opinion. But to say that we don't or can't prosecute it different is just, well, wrong.


If premeditation is thought, and by definition it is, then what you are saying is that thought can be a crime. My point is you are already trying the murderer for murder; why would you try them for thinking. I am not saying you can't bring thought into a case as evidence; my problem is punishing thought separately from the actual criminal action. Where does this end and how do you keep from punishing thought without a crime being committed. This, in my opinion, is another one of those slippery slopes.

If the murderer gets 20 to life for the actual murder and the state wants to add another 5 years because he hates black people, what is to stop the state from adding 5 years to a term for a political activist who throws a molotov cocktail into an Army recruitment center because he hates the military, which would probably be premeditated also.

Maybe, your angle comes from a more trusting view of the place government has in our lives, I, on the other hand, am more suspicious.

Ceroill said...

Unfortunately, Bawdy, things can go wrong just as easily the other direction. It sounds to me (reads to me) almost as if you are suggesting not taking motive into account at all. That it doesn't matter WHY one commits a crime, only that one did. Did the cop shoot the guy because for racial reasons or because of self defense? Did the church burner do it because he doesn't like that religion or because that architecture style offended his sensibilities? Did the guy run over his wife on purpose or by accident? Actions are not always 100% equivalent. Reasons have a bearing on appropriate response to a crime.
Does this mean it should be illegal to think about preferences in architecture, or about problems you may have with ethnic/religious/political/social/whatever group A? Of course not.
If someone comes after me because my name is Bob and he just doesn't like Bobs, how much bearing should that have on his sentence? I don't know, really. But...I do think it gets to a different level if he came after me because he wanted to send a message to all Bobs to be afraid and not be so Bobbish in public. Perhaps that should be reflected in sentencing. Just tossing out some thoughts here.


I believe in my last post on this thread I did mention, maybe too briefly, that thought could be used as evidence against a defendant. I am also of the thinking sentencing should be up to the judge or jury(where racism, etc. could be judged)instead of mandatory sentencing which is where I see this going(especially federally).

Here is another example. You have a white man and a white woman who are supposed to be exclusive. One day the white man comes home to find a black man doin' his woman doggie style so he blows both of their heads off and is soon apprehended. The prosecutor, many of which are political animals, shoots for murder in the second degree until he finds a whole bunch of Aryan Brotherhood material on the guys computer. It turns out this guy is a bigwig in the local chapter. What do you think is gonna happen?

Many non-racist people murder an adulterous mate, so it is plausible the white guy was going to kill anyone fucking his girl, but you don't think race will enter this case? You don't think the prosecutor will push for the new hate crime and get another feather in his cap? Looks better around election time, eh?

So many liberals(and I am not using this word pejoratively here)have problems with the death penalty because of race and the fact prosecutors aren't always above board, just wanting to get a conviction at any cost; and now we want to give them one more weapon to use to get that longer sentence.

The last few years I have started to swing back to the defendant side of things. We have too many laws and too many bad laws and this society is out of balance when it comes to law and order, hell it is all over TV(I have always hated cop shows).

As an example of too many laws, in this country many states have all kinds of laws about driving while on the cellphone or texting or whatever, but I betcha all states have some sort of reckless driving law which should take care of all these cases. We don't need laws to tell us not to talk on the phone or to text, one reckless driving law should do, no?

csm said...

Your hypothetical sounds a bit ridiculous to me. So let me respond saying that reason would likely prevail in that case and the jury would acquit on the defendant on a hate crime charge. There are always abuses of the criminal justice system, but that, at least to me, does not mean that you do not write the law.

I can relate to some of what you say here. I am against the death penalty, but not for the reasons you state. Yes, it is racist in that more blacks are put to death than others, but I am against the death penalty because we are fallible and death is not correctable. Life in prison without parole is better, because if we find out we were wrong to convict the person can be freed (even if the years lost to conviction cannot really be "fixed").

Do we have too many laws? I don't know. I think we have too many bad laws (all the drug laws, for example). Personally, I don't think hate crime laws would be bad laws. I don't think laws against texting while driving are bad either. By your line of thinking there is not reason to have a law against driving under the influence because that is covered under the reckless driving laws, too. I disagree, whole heartedly!


"So let me respond saying that reason would likely prevail in that case and the jury would acquit on the defendant on a hate crime charge."

"but I am against the death penalty because we are fallible"

I, my friend, am not so sanguine on this issue and don't trust human nature(especially large central governments) as you do.

csm said...

And Bob, if you come around these parts again acting so Bobbish I just might have to do something about it...

Seriously, I enjoyed your comment. It was so, well, so Bobbish!

G said...

Of course, there is always the concern about what this bill will eventually mutate into. Too often, laws like this are just the beginning and are eventually reinterpreted by imaginative courts into something far beyond the intent. But I never like those "slippery slope" arguments.

The greater concern with "hate crimes" legislation is that it broadens the reach of the federal authorities. Right now, there are specific conditions that must be met before the FBI can claim jurisdiction over an investigation. This bill would eliminate any distinctions between local and federal jurisdiction, so long as someone can make an argument that there was "hate" toward a specific group involved in the motivation. Don't almost all premeditated, violent crimes involve hate to some degree?

There is also the common concern for "unintended consequences" in general, which rears its ugly head just about every time congress passes new legislation. We don't know exactly what those consequences will be. Never underestimate the skill of lawyers to twist something reasonable into something that shocks the senses... and to convince a federal court that it is correct.

Because of the concern for those "unintended consequences", I always try to ask the question of whether the law is necessary. Is this federal "hate crimes" legislation necessary? I don't think it is.

1. The crimes being committed already have specific penalties.
2. If a single person commits those crimes multiple times, the FBI can already take jurisdiction as a "serial" investigation.
3. If a person or group is using criminal behavior to intimidate a specific group, those crimes are already covered by RICO and anti-terrorism laws.
4. Most states (around 40, I think) have already enacted their own "hate crimes" laws.

My view is that the most likely result of this law will not be what is intended, but that it will be used to tack on a few years to any criminal case where any kind of epithet was used by the guilty party.

Ceroill said...

G- I do have to say that the unintended consequences thing is a very good point.


Wasn't that what I was talking about, unintended consequences? That and the federal aspect?

Here is an example on the state level. Arizona passed an Anti-Coyote Law. It was designed to punish human smugglers by calling it "conspiracy to commit human smuggling". It was passed by our state government. When the Maricopa County Sheriff(fucking Joe Arpaio) and the Maricopa County Attorney(Andrew Thomas, another fucker I wish would go away)decided it would be a great law to enforce on the smugglee; which in some sense makes sense(they had to be in on the conspiracy), but that was not the original intent of the law.

And g, many don't like the "slippery slope" argument until they find them selves on one and they have to use it, usually by then it is too late.

verification word: excret(e)

I am sure some consider this apropos.

G said...

I do recognize the "slippery slope" tendency, particularly with the federal government. The reason I don't like it as an argument is that it could be used to make just about anything sound like a bad idea, and it's just a guess as to where the overreaching will start.

It's a valid concept and an unfortunate reality. I guess I should have said that I don't like it when it is the ONLY argument against something.

Can I add an off-topic bit of irony? In Obama's proposed budget, he wants to double the funding for hunting down tax evaders. I guess we never knew they needed more funding until Obama started nominating cabinet members.

csm said...

It is unfortunate that some people just cannot seem to get around to the idea of something because of its name. Sorta like global warming (hey, it's cold here, this global warming is fucked)...

I repeat, the name of the bill (being a hate crimes bill) is not the relevant part of what it is espousing. Ya gotta call it something. It is like being against a law forbidding premeditated murder because hell, premeditation is thinkin' and that oughta be good.

Everyone has their fears of what this "might" turn into. OK, fine. But what it is, in letter and spirit, is what I am for. We can all argue about what MIGHT happen til we're blue in the face and I don't think it matters much right now. This is a GOOD PIECE OF LEGISLATION and it oughta pass.

G said...

Is it necessary?

I understand your point of view. But how many of these criminal campaigns to terrorize a particular group have occurred recently (say over the past 10 years)? Of those, how many could not be adequately handled with the current laws on the books?

If the answer to either of those questions is zero (or close to it), then there is no reason to pass this law. The potential for abuse and unintended consequences is too great.

G said...

Here's a commentary I found that is relevant to the topic and along the same lines I mentioned:

Empty symbolism on hate crimes


Thanks for the article, g. I get to read Steve Chapman some as he writes for Reason(or they republish some of his stuff). It sure makes one wonder if Congress ever makes it back to the real world except to ask for votes or money.

verification word: dingo

csm said...

Bottom line: If there were any hate crimes being inflicted upon WASPs this legislation would have been passed ages ago.

G said...

That's nonsense. Your position is based on the emotional appeal of the law, not the reality of what it would or would not accomplish.

EVERY expansion of the Fed's power to police should be considered with EXTREME care. And giving lawyers another avenue to manipulate laws in their favor, particularly when the new law is unnecessary, is foolish.


csm, even if that were true, and I am not saying it wouldn't be, it wouldn't make it good law and it still wouldn't be necessary.

Anonymous said...

Andrew Sullivan recently said this:
The real reason for hate crimes is not the defense of human beings from crime. There are already laws against that-and Matthew Shepard's murderers were successfully prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law in a state with no hate crimes at the time. The real reason for the invention of hate crimes was a hard-left critique of conventional liberal justice and the emergence of special interest groups which need boutique legislation to raise funds for their large staffs and luxurious buildings.

csm said...

I am unimpressed with Andrew Sullivan's take on reality in this particular case.

It remains my opinion that hate crime laws are needed to curtail the additional crime of terrorizing the class of people (ANY class, even if that class is stuck-up, right wing pricks) upon which the crime was committed.

Cowcharge said...

Do you really think that drunken oaf that beats up a gay guy is trying to terrorize all gays? Methinks you doth give them too much credit.

And why do you insist on painting everyone who disagrees, regardless of reason, as stupid or rednecks etc. etc. etc.? No one on here who is against this legislation has said anything about "not letting queers near my children", but you insist that dissenters are all the same.

Cowcharge said...

Every time one of you guys says "old white men" in relation to their rottenness etc., you are committing a hate crime, are you not?

csm said...

Howdy Cow! Long time no hear from... glad to see you lurking around these parts!

I understand your assertion that not every "drunken oaf" is terrorizing all gays. But they are terrorizing at least the one they are smashing. And in most cases, I strongly assert that someone who is so anti-gay that they resort to violence is guilty or terrorizing all gays - whether that was their intent or not.

And your comment about a statement ("old white men") being terrorist? Really? Words are terrorizing in your mind? To me, it has to be an action to be a terrorist act.

csm said...

Let me revise my statement above. I don't see speech as ever rising to be a hate crime. Action is required.