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[P]
Hate Crime Legislation Creates "Thoughtcrime."

By Alarmist in Op-Ed
Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 02:49:46 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)
Freedom

Note: this is a US-centric story.

This is something that's been bothering me for a while. A modification to the United States Code (18 USC 245) was made in 1999 by the Hate Crimes Act in Congress. This addendum to the USC means that additional penalties can be laid against someone who commits a crime with hatred as a motivator. This measure was hailed by many in the United States as being a necessary step towards protecting minorities.

I think it summons the terrible specter of "thoughtcrime" that Orwell wrote about in Nineteen Eighty-Four


The law is careful to point out that these additional penalties are only accrued if the criminal's object was to prevent the victim from enjoying a federally-protected right (i.e. freedom of travel, equal use of public facilities, discharge of government duties, et cetera).It also points out that the federal government is not required to intervene in such matters, merely that the feds reserve the right to do so.

This isn't enough for some groups. A proposed amendment to 18 USC 245 would have made additional penalties available for any crime motivated by hatred of a minority.

I think this is absurd. There are plenty of laws on the books that punish all manner of crimes already. Assault, murder, and the like are all handled under existing statutes. Why do we need to further muddy the issue by tacking on additional penalties for hate-motivated crimes? A man who is killed because he's black is just as dead as a man who's killed because he wouldn't give up his wallet. How is having the criminal serve a few extra years in prison going to change that fact?

What this legislation does is introduce thoughtcrime. It is already illegal, after a fashion, to act against someone for discriminatory reasons (race, age, religion and sex, possibly orientation and disability later on). I have no problem with that--discriminatory action is wrong because it hurts society. What I have a problem with is adding additional laws to handle something that is already adequately covered by existing laws. We do not need an extra law telling people that killing someone because they're a different color is wrong; our current laws handle murder in all forms.

A gay man beaten and left to die because he was gay. A black man dragged to death behind a truck because he was black. These are terrible things, and I wish that things like them never happened. But those people are just as dead as a white man or a woman or anyone else would have been. Is it somehow less wrong to kill someone to rob them? Is it less wrong to rape someone for no reason beyond sheer meanness? I don't think so, but some people would have us believe that it is.

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Hate Crime Legislation Creates "Thoughtcrime." | 64 comments (59 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
You have the wrong end of the stick (4.12 / 16) (#3)
by streetlawyer on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 01:35:28 PM EST

Motivation is always a factor in sentencing; that's why there are two degrees of murder, plus manslaughter to handle the offence of killing. There is also indecent assault as well as assault, plus a host of others

You are picking the wrong example by talking about the high profile killings. Most "hate crimes" are petty acts of vandalism. I personally see nothing wrong with a degree of legal recognition that it is a worse thing to write "Niggers must die" on a black person's front door than to write "Go Mets". It is an aggravating circumstance, because it displays a particular degree of malice, plus it carries the strong implication that this malice is extended toward a large segment of society. Someone who punches Joe Blow on the nose because he is cross with Joe Blow is less likely to re-offend than someone who punches Joe Blow on the nose because he hates Jews; the second offender is likely to punch other Jews.

And finally, your reference to Orwell is entirely out of place. The whole point of "thoughtcrime", and indeed the whole point of almost all of 1984 was that there is something particularly terrible about totalitarian states which criminalise private thoughts which have no expression in antisocial acts. Under the hate-crime laws proposed, you are still as free as ever you were to hate niggers; you just have to accept that you're going to get a stiffer sentence if you punch them.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever

Motivation in a crime. (5.00 / 2) (#10)
by Alarmist on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 01:54:37 PM EST

Motivation is always a factor in sentencing; that's why there are two degrees of murder, plus manslaughter to handle the offence of killing. There is also indecent assault as well as assault, plus a host of others.

This isn't something I have a problem with, because it's a little broader in scope. Waking up in the morning, planning to kill someone, and then going out and doing it is rather different from killing someone during an argument. One is arguably a lapse of judgment; the other is a premeditated act that suggests that the criminal may be a greater danger to society.

However, what I have a problem with is allowing a prejudice to be a factor in motivation. Is someone who murders people primarily because they're gay, black, women, or some other protected minority more deserving of punishment than someone who murders people just because? In my mind, no. They're equally scummy people and richly deserve punishment.

Someone who punches Joe Blow on the nose because he is cross with Joe Blow is less likely to re-offend than someone who punches Joe Blow on the nose because he hates Jews; the second offender is likely to punch other Jews.

Well. I'm about to plunge into some deep water here, so feel free to point out when I'm over my head and really should stop blathering.

In my mind, the ostensible reason for punishment is to discourage an action. We lock up people who punch other people because we don't think that punching people contributes to the health of a society. Whether you punched Joe because you were mad at him or punched Joe because he was Jewish doesn't ultimately matter, because you're being punished for punching someone, period.

I can appreciate the logic behind discouraging behaviors that might be carried out against a larger subset of the population (i.e. punching Joe because he's Jewish). It still doesn't stand in my mind, though, because the entire point of punishment is to discourage the individual from doing that to anyone, regardless of color, sex, age, or religion. Is adding ten years to an anti-Semite's sentence because he committed his crimes with malice aforethought against Jews going to make a difference? Probably not. If anything, it's likely to reinforce the notion that the law protects everyone but him, and he is more likely to see himself as the victim of a society that treats people differently because of race, creed, sex, or age. It is a measure that will cause US society to fragment further.

I think it's better not to have that. I think it's better for the law to say, "Look, we don't care why you slugged Joe. We're going to toss you in the slammer for a few years in the hopes that getting buggered by large men will teach you not to be a jerk."

I still stand by my characterization of thoughtcrime. The proposed legislation will treat some crimes as being worse simply because they were committed as the extension of bigotry. What I think should be done instead is to handle such cases as if they were premeditated acts and leave it at that. I think we can agree that spending a few hours a day obsessing about how you hate women or Jews would count as premeditation if you start killing women or Jews.


[ Parent ]

here's a tough question for you .... (3.33 / 3) (#43)
by streetlawyer on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 02:23:31 AM EST

Is someone who murders people primarily because they're gay, black, women, or some other protected minority more deserving of punishment than someone who murders people just because?

Do you think that someone who murders or rapes children is more deserving of punishment that someone who murders or rapes adults?

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Children vs. adults. (none / 0) (#56)
by Alarmist on Thu Dec 14, 2000 at 10:15:45 AM EST

Do you think that someone who murders or rapes children is more deserving of punishment that someone who murders or rapes adults?

No. I support the death penalty (though I wish it were used more justly) for murder, and would not be opposed to seeing it extended to rape as well.

Regarding the rape of children, I'm told that child molesters and child killers have the hardest time of any criminal class in prison.


[ Parent ]

Excuse me for differing (5.00 / 2) (#21)
by jabber on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 02:44:05 PM EST

I may have the wrong 'nick' to argue with StreetLawyer about this, but I think there a world of difference between Motivation and Intent. Intent is the difference between the degrees of Murder, for example, is it not?

'Why' I want to kill someone should not be an issue at all - only 'That' I want to kill them. I may want to kill someone for being a different color, creed or opinion than I; but as long as I want to kill them when the killing happens, there is Intent, and so it's 2nd degree Murder. When I take steps in advance to make the killing possible, it is premeditated, and so 1st degree. Please correct me if I am misinformed, and please provide a reputable reference - preferably an online one - for my edification.

As for your examples of graffitti... If the latter was written on the front door of George Steinbrenner, how is it different than the former written on the door of Jesse Jackson? Granted, the former carries an implicit death threat, so let's change the latter to read "Yankee fans must die!" At that point there is only a racial slurr that separates the two, so let's make the former "African Americans must die!". Is there now any difference at all?

IANAL, and I am not arguing the content of the law - but rather the reasonning in it. If I hate blacks, and happen to rear-end one on the highway, am I subject to stricter penalties than if I hit an Oriental? If I accidentally or intentionally ram the car of another person, why should their color, and my opinion, factor into the judgment of my actions? Only the intent of and desire for doing harm should be considered punishable, IMO of course.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Government Influence (4.66 / 3) (#23)
by Mad Hughagi on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 03:33:03 PM EST

I think you have brought up some very valid points. The concept of this relating to thought-crimes is particularily striking though.

In general, I'm certain that most people agree that hate is a very poor motive for commiting a crime. The United States has been trying to reverse the damage that it has inflicted on minorities over the years and it sees laws like this as being a way to show the public that something tangible is being done to reduce the number of hate related crimes committed. The fact that it has chosen stricter punishment on allready committed crimes to be the method of attack is the rather knaive point as far as I'm concerned.

The main problem with this method of attack is that it is simply a white-wash method - sure, it convinces some of the 'not so extreme' potential hate criminals from acting out in fear, however it will still allow them to propagate their close-minded views - the behaviour that the government is trying to curb in the first place. So in the end it takes care of all the psychotic hate criminals (the ones that no-one usually listens to in the first place) but leaves the relatively affluent ones to continue spreading their negativism. As many others have pointed out, it also tends to further alienate convicted criminals from society, only further re-inforcing their hatred and most likely adding to the incentive for them to become repeat offenders.

In the end I think the government means well, but has choosen a poor way to deal with the situation. The real Orwellian aspect of it is that this is the type of law that can be twisted into situations where it should not be applied, as well as paving the way for further 'subjective sentencing'.

Once it is deemed commonplace to have all sorts of special modifications to intent classifications you can quickly run into situations where the system can be abused - it works either way really - think of all the times where someone was quick to explain their actions through 'temporary psychosis' or 'severe depression' etc etc... In the end a crime was commited, and if the justice system is to be fair then it should deal with all crime on the same basis instead of applying modification tags to appease the public opinion.

If we're going to deal with the concept of hate in america, it's going to take a different approach. I think that the majority of hateful outlooks are generated at home, by people who carry on with the ignorant beliefs of their ancestors. Changing the accumulated outlook of generations of ignorance can only be done by example and understanding - not by threatening people with stricter punishments.


HUGHAGI INDUSTRIES

We don't make the products you like, we make you like the products we make.
[ Parent ]

Your difference is inexcusable. Back in the herd! (3.00 / 3) (#29)
by 0xdeadbeef on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 05:17:11 PM EST

so let's change the latter to read "Yankee fans must die!" At that point there is only a racial slurr that separates the two, so let's make the former "African Americans must die!". Is there now any difference at all?

Obviously. One is a joke. The other is a legitimate threat. But when there becomes of a history murder and civil strife between Mets fans and Yankee fans, I don't see any reason why it couldn't be considered a hate crime.

What really bugs me is that the doublespeak of "hate crime" is perpetuated by the opponents of hate crime law as much as its proponents. There is a perfectly good word for this type of crime: terrorism. But the funny thing is, the "law 'n' order" set that uses the threat of terrorism to further its agenda is almost exclusive to the "social justice" set that uses hate crime to further its agenda. Why can't we all just get along?

For those of you who disagree with hate crime laws, do you think cop killers should be punished more harshly? What's the rationale? What's the difference?

[ Parent ]

Then call a Spade a Spade (4.25 / 4) (#32)
by jabber on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 07:42:23 PM EST

No offense intended, whatever anyone might perceive 'Spade' to connote.

I can accept 'terrorism', because there's not an implication of a victimized oppressed minority in the word. In fact, isn't it usually a minority that commits acts of terrorism?

If race, creed, sexual preference and all the other group-oriented crimes are lumped in with the bombing of civilian busses, and a defined set of penalties are established for the perpetrator, then fine - I'll support that law. But if a majority, or regionally predominant group, is penalized differently when commiting crimes against one group than when commiting the same crime against another group, then The Law is not equitable, and does not 'afford equal protection'.

Say a white robber muggs a black man... Say he calls his victim a 'nigger' in the process - is he a racist? Is this a 'hate crime'? Or is he just trying to upset and intimidate the victim? What if the same criminal robs a woman, and calls her a 'bitch' or 'whore'? Is he suddenly a misogynist? What if he robs a man whom he calls a 'faggot'? Is the nature of the crime different, depending on whether or not the victim is or isn't actually a homosexual?

And if this criminal is in fact prejudiced against one of these groups? Is the act of mugging somehow different? Can it be conclusively proven that the victim was singled out based on their belonging to a group the criminal hates? Or were they simply attacked because they were likely to have a wallet?

When a Synagogue is burned, it's a hate-crime. When a Protestant Church is torched, it's arson. When the Moose Lodge burns it's because some drunk left the barbeque lit. When Mamma Mia's Pizza goes up in flames then it's insurance fraud - why is that? Isn't that in itself prejudice?

When racial slurs, or group oriented specifics are used in a crime, it is usually to intimidate. Yes, having "Nigger Die!" painted on the front door of a black family's home is more upsetting to the residents than if the family were white. Is it less of a crime if the vandal tagged the wrong house? Is sending a Clown Telegram to the house of someone with an extreme fear of clowns also a hate crime, albeit one directed an an extremely small and misunderstood minority?

I'm not really trying to ridicule the issue, it's a serious problem and I realize it - as a Polish immigrant and geek, I've had more experience with prejudice and ridicule than most white-bread Protestant males. What I *am* trying to do is to question where the lines are actually drawn, because it seems too arbitrary, and done purely for the sake of political correctness.

The incidents of crimes against individuals, when motivated by nothing more than skin color or sexual preference, are unfortunate and rooted in ignorance. (Then again, a Klansman might accuse me of ignorance for not seeing the 'obvious deficiency of the Black, Jew, Oriental, gay, whatever'... or however they phrase it) But does the dragging or beating death of one individual deserve a more stern punishment than an identical death of another individual; based solely on how broadly or narrowly the hate that caused the crime is focused?

I hereby declare myself a minority of one, and any hostility against me should therefore be interpreted as a hate-crime.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

you misunderstand the statute (3.66 / 6) (#44)
by streetlawyer on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 02:35:20 AM EST

But if a majority, or regionally predominant group, is penalized differently when commiting crimes against one group than when commiting the same crime against another group, then The Law is not equitable, and does not 'afford equal protection'.

Your point is by the by, as the law does not in fact say this; it affords equal protection to minority and majority groups against hate crimes, and a glance at the FBI survey reveals that black-on-white hate crimes are actually quite common. Interestingly, I can't tell this from the statistics, but it is entirely possible that the small "unclassified" pool of hate crimes may indicate anti-geek violence.

Some other points:

When a Synagogue is burned, it's a hate-crime. When a Protestant Church is torched, it's arson.When the Moose Lodge burns it's because some drunk left the barbeque lit

Not true; see above.

When Mamma Mia's Pizza goes up in flames then it's insurance fraud - why is that? Isn't that in itself prejudice? .... Is sending a Clown Telegram to the house of someone with an extreme fear of clowns also a hate crime, albeit one directed an an extremely small and misunderstood minority?

No, because insurance companies and clown-phobics are not groups.

What I *am* trying to do is to question where the lines are actually drawn, because it seems too arbitrary, and done purely for the sake of political correctness.

Again no; they are drawn in response to very obvious political realities.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Unfair Rating Alert! (1.00 / 2) (#63)
by unfair_rating_alert! on Fri Dec 15, 2000 at 10:40:33 PM EST

This comment is rated at a 1.00 yet contains an intelligent rebuttal with no counter rebuttal!

---- Canned Text ----

This comment was provided by unfair_rating_alert!, a troll account created strictly to look for intelligent comments unfairly rated below 2.00. You may not agree with the contents of the previous post, however, if you're fair you should agree that it didn't deserve a less than 2.00 rating. To preserve the integrity of this troll account no comments from here will be rated as it's simply too easy to open multiple accounts to stack a rating. The purpose of this account is not to affect or change individual ratings, not but to show bias within the rating system. Therefore, this account will not post topical or editorial content, rebuttals, story submissions, rate comments, or vote on story submissions. Readers are encouraged to reconsider a rating and act according to their conscience.

[ Parent ]

Penalties for killing cops. (none / 0) (#62)
by Alarmist on Fri Dec 15, 2000 at 02:02:27 PM EST

For those of you who disagree with hate crime laws, do you think cop killers should be punished more harshly? What's the rationale? What's the difference?

No, because I support the death penalty for murder and you can't get harsher than that in the United States without violating the Constitution.


[ Parent ]

Hate Crime... (3.37 / 8) (#5)
by Electric Angst on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 01:42:29 PM EST

This article makes some good points, but a very important one is forgotten: When a criminal is sentenced, their motivation is already taken into account. A murder during a botched robbery will get you less time than the slaughter of someone just to get your rocks off. This leaves the interpretation up to the judge and jury. This law would help to get past those jurors and judges who think "Oh hell, I'd have killed the faggot too" (and, unfortunately, those type of people still exist.)

Thoughtcrime is an exaggeration, though. You still have to act for the crime to have been committed.

To try and get this post back on a coherent subject, I believe that passing this legislation is not good, and that it takes the type of subjective judgements that should reside with people during a trial and turns it into written law. People are much more flexible and capable of handling the situation than a written law, and this type of matter is far too complex for the simple sledgehammer solution of legislation.

Did that make any sense?
--
"Hell, at least [Mailbox Pipebombing suspect Lucas Helder's] argument makes sense, which is more than I can say for the vast majority of people." - trhurler
Motivation (3.00 / 1) (#13)
by Alarmist on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 02:03:23 PM EST

This article makes some good points, but a very important one is forgotten: When a criminal is sentenced, their motivation is already taken into account. A murder during a botched robbery will get you less time than the slaughter of someone just to get your rocks off.

Indeed, and I don't have a problem with this. I think a better solution to the hate crimes problem would lie in counting the hatred as premeditation in the appropriate circumstances. The law as it stands is flexible enough to handle this; we don't need additional laws to make it stick.


[ Parent ]

Politics (3.71 / 7) (#6)
by reshippie on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 01:45:09 PM EST

We really don't NEED to have laws that make it a worse crime just because you didn't like a group that your victim was associated with, but it makes the politicians look good.

That's really one of the main reasons laws get passed, people get upset, and legislators act to please thier constituents(sp?) so that they get re-elected. It doesn't really matter if the law simply creates a new subsection of a broader category, it's just further proof that the legislator has his/her district's interests covered.

On a similar line, that's why it's practically impossible to reduce mandatory punishments. It's known that many computer crackers, and pot smokers do at least as much jail time as rapists and murderers, but the only way to make it more equal is to send the rapists and murderers to jail for more time.

If a legislator proposed or voted for a bill to reduce mandatory sentences, they would immediately become "soft on crime" and have their chances for re-election drastically reduced.
</rant>

Those who don't know me, probably shouldn't trust me. Those who do DEFINITELY shouldn't trust me. :-)

Intent (4.12 / 8) (#7)
by EricsTrip on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 01:45:38 PM EST

A gay man beaten and left to die because he was gay. A black man dragged to death behind a truck because he was black. These are terrible things, and I wish that things like them never happened. But those people are just as dead as a white man or a woman or anyone else would have been.

And a man accidentally killed by negligence or an error of judgement is also dead. Does the person who killed him deserve the same punishment as a murderer who planned his crime and executed it in cold blood?

I sure hope not. That's why there are first-degree and second-degree murder charges. It's the court's job to determine intent in a crime, and give the appropriate sentence. If the intent was irrational hate, based on the victim's attributes - colour of skin, sexual orientation, etc, then the sentence should be appropriate.

Intent. (4.33 / 3) (#14)
by Alarmist on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 02:06:11 PM EST

And a man accidentally killed by negligence or an error of judgement is also dead. Does the person who killed him deserve the same punishment as a murderer who planned his crime and executed it in cold blood?

No. The question of intent is sufficiently answered by the laws at hand. There isn't a need for additional legislation to handle the matter.


[ Parent ]

The fact of intent, not the kind (4.33 / 3) (#20)
by End on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 02:37:52 PM EST

The charge for unintentionally causing death by "negligence or an error of judgment" is manslaughter, not murder. You will be happy to know that the sentence for manslaughter is usually less than for murder.

In charging and sentencing for murder, only the fact of the existence of intent is considered, not the specific motive. A motive aids in proving intent, but people are not punished for their criminal motives. They are punished for their criminal acts.

-JD
[ Parent ]

That's not intent, that's motive. (5.00 / 2) (#42)
by DavidTC on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 02:10:31 AM EST

The intent of the murderer was to kill the person. How planned the intent was makes it first or second degree. If there was a very small amount of intent, such as caused by negligence, it's manslaughter.

The motive for the murderer was the irrational hate.

Intent is easy, we have lots of standards for that, mainly involving the amount of planning you put into it. Sure, planning crimes isn't criminal, but it's really hard to argue you broke into someone's house with your newly purchased gun and then killed them in a fit of rage.

But the court cannot read your mind and find out what your motive was. And the evidence it was a 'hate crime' is constitutionally protected speach. So, basically, we wil end up with two identical crimes, the same amount of planning and 'malicious forethought' went into them, but one person gets an extra five years cause they run a neo-Nazi website and their victim was black?

The first amendment explictily says it's okay to run that site, but the act of running that site gave them five years in jail. Can that even vaguely be consider constitutional? Sure, they killed someone,.but murderers still have most constitutional rights, and definately first amendment ones. It has even been decided they can write books about their crimes. And, more then likely, they put the opinions up before they killed anyone anyway, when they definately had those rights.

You know, this entire setup could actually be considered an ex post facto law also, by making previously legal opinions into a basis for a criminal charge. Which makes it doublely unconstitutional.

-David T. C.
Yes, my email address is real.
[ Parent ]

Then start complaining about punitive damages... (4.20 / 5) (#8)
by ramses0 on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 01:46:18 PM EST

...I view the various hate-crime statutes as very similar to the concept of punitive damages.

IANAL, but punitive damages are usually levied against corporations for up to triple the amount the court or jury would normally award. These damages are by definition not the "correct" amount (they are above and beyond normal damages), but instead designed to prevent future behaviour.

The hate-crimes statues are very similar to the concept of punitive damages (except targetting individuals), so if you complain about hate-crime laws for people, you have to complain about punitive damages for corporations. Either way, I'd like to hear what you think about the similarities and differences between these two issues.

--Robert
[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]

Punitive damages. (4.00 / 3) (#16)
by Alarmist on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 02:18:54 PM EST

The hate-crimes statues are very similar to the concept of punitive damages (except targetting individuals), so if you complain about hate-crime laws for people, you have to complain about punitive damages for corporations.

I'm not too hot on the idea of punitive damages either, but that's mostly because I think the legal fiction of treating a corporation as a sentient entity is absurd. A corporation is an entity composed of many individual parts, each of which acts in concert with the others to some desired end. If a person is wronged by those actions, then those actions are ultimately the result of some individual or individuals who act to bring about that circumstance. The company as a whole cannot be held responsible.

Scenario: a company engages in practices that are blatantly discriminatory (a hotelier refusing access for Jews, for instance). Under our current law, the entire company gets hit with the lawsuit and the damages. I think it would be better to target only those people responsible for those practices, from the executive who thought it up to the hotel clerk who actually enforced it. Nobody who isn't involved in this mess (housekeeping, sales managers, etc.) needs to be involved. Treat it as an instance where those individuals are personally responsible for their actions, rather than letting them hide behind the corporation's facade. In so doing, guilt is dispersed to the point that it is meaningless as any sort of reformative tool.


[ Parent ]

Sue EVERYONE (4.00 / 2) (#35)
by MrSpey on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 08:44:13 PM EST

Actually, if (following your example) you're a Jew who is refused a room in a hotel because you're jewish, you should sue everyone. I'm not sure how it works from a criminal law point of view, but you can bring suit against everyone who you feel discriminated against you. That means everyone from the desk worker who refused you a room to the manager on duty at the time to the hotel owner to the hotel chain owner and anyone in-between you find out about. And since you can go for punitive damages in your suit, even if they don't get charged with a crime, if you win these suits there's a fair chance that the people you're suing will end up owing you a fair amount of cash anyway.

Mr. Spey
Cover your butt. Bernard is watching.

[ Parent ]
Frivolous lawsuits? (5.00 / 1) (#57)
by Alarmist on Thu Dec 14, 2000 at 10:24:12 AM EST

The litigiousness of current United States society bothers me.

Our courts should be busy dealing with arson, rape, murder, and the like. Suing somebody because they don't like you is immature; suing somebody because they actually did you demonstrable harm is another matter.

When I was ten, my cousin and I were told to leave a public swimming pool. We were the only ones there of our particular color. If I thought about these things the way a lot of USers seem to, I would have sued the city (as it was their pool) and the employees for damages, citing discrimination. The case would have been an interesting one, as the reason we were asked to leave was not overtly racist. I didn't see any of the other 70% of the people who were at the pool doing the same thing being asked to leave, though.

I feel then what I feel now: if they don't want me around, that's their problem. I can live without a swimming pool, and there are lots of other places where I can swim if I so choose. This incident (which is admittedly an isolated one, and doesn't begin to hold a candle to the concerted racism that some people have to endure every day) didn't scar me for life, nor do I lie awake at night worrying about it. Why am I not bothered by this, when it seems like other people would be?


[ Parent ]

Punitive punishments (4.50 / 2) (#26)
by meeth on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 03:53:20 PM EST

IANAL either, but my understanding of criminal law is that all sentences have a punitive component. I think in common law there are four factors in determining the punishment: rehabilitation of the criminal, helping the victim, preventing future crime, and punishing badness. Thus, a normal murder sentence may already have a "punishing badness" component, where the badness being punished is the act of murder. With hate crimes, by contrast, the badness being punished is the motive/beliefs of the criminal.

If this is the case, then the analogy between hate crimes and punitive punishment is not necessarily a good one. If you're going to argue against punitive punishment, you have to argue against retributive justice. If you're going to argue against hate crimes, you can argue against retributive justice or against punishing someone for holding the views that produced the criminal activity in the first place.

Hate crime legislation is objectionable for what is being punished. Punitive punishment might be objectionable for the nature of the punishment itself.

[ Parent ]

I agree (3.80 / 5) (#9)
by GreenCrackBaby on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 01:54:02 PM EST

Except for your reference to 1984 I agree with you. I've read the comments posted, and I think people have the wrong idea.

This is not a difference such as that between 1st degree murder and 2nd degree murder. What the law seems to be saying is this:

If I walk up to a man and shoot him because he is gay, this is somehow worse than me walking up to a man and shooting him because I'm a homicidal maniac.

This distinction seems very wrong to me.

Yes, and no... (4.00 / 1) (#34)
by Chakotay on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 08:15:00 PM EST

Lets say you walk up to a black person and kill him because you're a homicidal maniac in case A, and because you hate black people in case B.

In case A, judge and jury will be very intent on putting you behind bars. But in case B judge and jury might be of a different mindset altogether. I'm reminded of the scene in the movie The Green Mile where the big black guy was sentenced by "a jury of his peers", which were all white and many of them obviously had their judgements clouded by the simple fact that the defendant was a huge black guy.

Similarly, in case B, the jury might decide that killing that black guy because he's black isn't much of a crime. That is why there is hate crime legislation, for example, to prevent KKKers in the southern US getting away with murder because the general population happens to think alike.

--
Linux like wigwam. No windows, no gates, Apache inside.

[ Parent ]

Let me suggest an experiment (2.00 / 2) (#50)
by streetlawyer on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 07:43:13 AM EST

Go out into the street an kill a stranger for no reason. Don't do this in Texas. Then, when you get out of jail, kill your mother in order to inherit her fortune. See which one gets you a longer sentence. Do you have a problem with that distinction?

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
What concerns me (2.50 / 6) (#11)
by DemiGodez on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 01:54:44 PM EST

What concerns me about federal hate crime laws is the federal part. A federal law against hate crime either means

a) I can be tried for murder at a state level and hate crime at a federal level (which I view as double jeopardy)

or

b) The federal government is taking power away from the states which I think is important.

Federal vs. state power. (4.50 / 2) (#12)
by Alarmist on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 01:58:37 PM EST

I can be tried for murder at a state level and hate crime at a federal level (which I view as double jeopardy)

or

b) The federal government is taking power away from the states which I think is important.

Actually, it's neither. The law as it stands goes to great lengths to say that the Feds won't step in just because; rather, they have to be invited to do so. You couldn't be tried for the same crime twice, nor would the federal government automatically step in and take over what would be a state matter.


[ Parent ]

Your right and wrong (4.50 / 2) (#28)
by DemiGodez on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 04:00:03 PM EST

Of course I can't technically be tried twice for the same crime. But I can be tried twice for the same action. That's what concerns me. i fundamentally believe no one should have to sit through two trials that independently try to prove that the same action was committed.

As far as the federal government stepping it, if it truly is by invitation only, they why even both with a federal law. The states could handle it. I'm not so optimisitic to think that the federal government will really wait for an invite, but assuming that this is the case, let the states handle it.

[ Parent ]

You already can (4.00 / 2) (#17)
by michaela on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 02:19:56 PM EST

a) I can be tried for murder at a state level and hate crime at a federal level (which I view as double jeopardy)

Double jeopardy prevents someone from being tried for the same crime twice. These are two different crimes that just happen to be committed at the same time.
--
That is all
[ Parent ]

Consider (4.50 / 2) (#27)
by DemiGodez on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 03:56:43 PM EST

I am tried in my state of murder and acquitted. Then, the federal government steps in an prosecutes me under the hate crime legislation and I am found guilty. Logically, either I killed the person or I didn't. The crimes might technically be different but the action is the same. In either trial, the question is whether I killed the person or not.

If I get off of a murder rap, I am not comfortable with the idea that the government gets a second chance to prove I did something that I was already acquitted of just because the alleged action broke more than one law.

[ Parent ]

But... (3.00 / 1) (#45)
by michaela on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 02:43:58 AM EST

you haven't been tried for the hate crime during the murder trial. It would be very hard to make a case winning case on a hate crime charge based solely on a drop or acquittal of a murder charge.

They'd be more likely to come after you for hate crimes based on actions other than the murder alone. Cross burnings, racist grafitti, discrimintation and other harassment could fall under the hate crime legislation.

Don't get me wrong, I don't necessarily support the hate crime legislation in the first place. Terrorism, vandalism and harassment are already illegal. I'm not so sure we need extra laws rather than stronger enforcement of the ones we already have.
--
That is all
[ Parent ]

Double jeopardy. (none / 0) (#61)
by Alarmist on Fri Dec 15, 2000 at 01:59:26 PM EST

If I get off of a murder rap, I am not comfortable with the idea that the government gets a second chance to prove I did something that I was already acquitted of just because the alleged action broke more than one law.

This is one of the things that really stuck in my craw about the O.J. Simpson case. He was tried once and found not guilty, and tried in a civil suit and found guilty of causing the wrongful death of his ex and her boyfriend. I wish it hadn't come about that way at all.


[ Parent ]

OT: Double Jeopardy (4.00 / 2) (#19)
by reshippie on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 02:29:10 PM EST

You can't be tried for the same crime more than once, but what is the exact definition of crime?

Since in some cases, the same action, such as murder, can fall under both Federal and State jursidicion. Can you be tried twice for committing murder, simply because you broke 2 separate murder laws?

Those who don't know me, probably shouldn't trust me. Those who do DEFINITELY shouldn't trust me. :-)
[ Parent ]

That's what concerns me (4.50 / 2) (#25)
by DemiGodez on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 03:52:41 PM EST

The definition of a crime is exactly what concerns me here. Especially the idea that the same action can break multiple laws. This seems a convenient way around double jeopardy.

[ Parent ]
They've been doing it for years (4.50 / 2) (#36)
by MrSpey on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 08:49:41 PM EST

If the idea of people being charged with a crime at both the state and the federal level bothers you, you should have spoken up a while ago. I don't have any references, but the Supreme Court ruled a while ago that a state crime and a federal crime are two different crimes, regardless of how similiar they seem, so you can try people for both. Fortunately, there are only so many overlaps between the powers of states and the powers of the federal government to pass laws (though it's still way too much overlap if you ask me).

Mr. Spey
Cover your butt. Bernard is watching.

[ Parent ]
Hate Crimes versus Equal Rights (3.81 / 11) (#18)
by jabber on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 02:24:36 PM EST

Is it just me, or does anyone else see something fundamentally wrong with having BOTH laws against Hate Crimes AND for Equal Rights?? After all, if all citizens are equal before the eyes of The Law, then how can The Law differentiate between them on the basis of race, color, creed, etc. ?

When was the last time that you saw the robbery of a white woman by a black man described as a Hate Crime? How about the robbery of a gay man by a redneck? Obvious difference, isn't it? The "Hate Crime card" only gets played by a minority victim (and their respective vocal grand-standers); because when a majority victim so much as mentions the concept, they are immediately branded a racist or oppressor themselves. If a bunch of white cops wail on Rodney King, it's a racial issue - but when a mob of angry blacks haul Reginald Denney out of his truck, and hit him over the head with a brick, it's just a riot?

When The Law starts assigning motivation (not intent, as in 'degree of murder') as a factor in sentencing or even prosecutability, then The Law (as an impartial protector of the population) ceases to function. It starts becoming ridiculous - to the same point as when The Law starts interpreting 'voter intent' by the depth of a dimple on a ballot.


[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

Bit of a stretch. (4.50 / 2) (#33)
by Spinoza on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 07:50:59 PM EST

Hate crime laws are colour blind. (as well as race, creed, etc). If a white person is killed for being white, that's punishable as a hate crime. You can cause this to happen by walking into the wrong bar at the wrong time (assuming you are white). The problem is that more hate crimes are committed by a small but unruly segment of the white population than by any other group of people. Furthermore, hate crime legislation isn't usually necessary for getting black people punished for killing whites. The problem hate crime laws address is those miscarriages of justice where murderers are allowed to walk free because the judge and jury didn't think that killing black men is wrong.

My point is that there is no problem with having both hate crime laws and equal rights. They aren't mutually exclusive. It's just the context of society that makes them seem so. Hate crime laws are an attempt to correct this uneven context. If society itself were not racist, the hate crime laws would not appear to be discriminatory.

What alternative method do you propose the government should use to combat racism? Education is a fine idea, but it doesn't work when people inherit their parents' and community's racism. In order to protect minorities from racism, a policy is needed which actively and effectively discourages racist excesses.

You've also brought up the common argument that hate crime laws are just a bludgeon for minorities to weild against the majority. This is something of a spurious argument. Majorities are simply not discriminated against in the normal run of things. This is precisely why such laws are needed. Of course they favour minorities. This is absolutely why they exist. In the history of the US there have been very few black lynch mobs.

Now, if affirmative action were the subject, your comment would find more justification (although still subject to debate, but let's not get into it).

[ Parent ]

abjectly ignorant (3.00 / 2) (#49)
by streetlawyer on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 07:39:55 AM EST

When was the last time that you saw the robbery of a white woman by a black man described as a Hate Crime?

Well, actually, the last time I read the FBI's hate crime statistics, which lists over 8,000 such events for 1998. If you're this ignorant about a subject, you really do have a responsibility to shut up about it.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

abjectly arrogant (1.00 / 1) (#52)
by jabber on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 11:59:02 AM EST

Argument at hand aside for the moment...

If you're this ignorant about a subject, you really do have a responsibility to shut up about it.

Hold your horses there you arrogant, elitist prick! Ignorance, by definition, is a lack of knowledge and understanding. If it is clear to you that I am uninformed, educate me - don't tell me to 'recognize my lack of knowledge, and stay quiet'. If you're this educated about a subject, you really do have a responsibility to educate people about the truth, if you feel that they are confused or misinformed. If all ignorant people took your advice, everyone would be forever ignorant.

Really, for someone who feigns intelligence and sophistication on most subjects at every turn, you do manage to show your spots. I suspect that, as most people, once you run out of arguments which you can employ to appear superior, you resort to silencing the opposition - just to get the last word in a conversation.

Back to the topic: I've disclaimed my background (IANAL) at the onset of the conversation. How many non-lawyers read those crime statistics as a matter of course? How many delve into the niche vocabulary where terminology is defined to a finer grain than in the general population, to avoid ambiguity? When I say "described as a Hate Crime" I mean on the Evening News, not in some Lexis/Nexis repository, or special interest document.

Care to discuss the finer points of the definition of 'baud' as it relates to 'bits per second'? How about aggregation versus composition within the scope of UML?

Most 'professionals' and 'experts' take the experience of their audience into account, and are flexible and forgiving with the arcane details (FBI reports are pretty damn esoteric to most people) until a clarification and reference is required - and then 'experts' provide their expertise without resorting to insults, brow-beating or badgering.

My opinion and understanding of this topic is confined by my experience - as is yours. My experience happens to be limited to popular culture, while yours apparently runs deeper than that.

Oh great and superior StreetLawyer, allow me to partake of your illustrious experience and sublime intellect, so that I may better perceive your reality the next time I bump my empty and ignorant head upon it! For I am only a simple caveman... I was out picking arguments and fell in a crevasse, to be thawed out later by some of your skillful rhetoric. Your sophisticated arguments frighten and intimidate me... Yes, I am mocking you.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

yes, hate crime laws are thoughtcrime laws. (3.75 / 8) (#22)
by DigDoug on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 03:25:07 PM EST

Someone on K5--I forget who--has for their signature the famous quote from Voltaire that I always cite when it comes to hate crime legislation:

I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Typing from memory, I may have misquoted it slightly, but the point is clear: people have a right to their opinion. Hate crime legislation penalizes people for their opinions, and that's despicable.

Without letting people form their own opinions, you can't have elections, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, education--or democracy itself. Hate crime laws, which claim that some thoughts are unacceptable, threaten all those freedoms and many more.

To the person who said 1984 was about controlling pure, unexpressed thoughts, whereas hate crime legislation controls thoughts after they're expressed: There were no mind-readers in 1984! The reason the government watched Winston 24/7 was to see him expressing his thoughts. A frown could get Winston in trouble--if Big Brother thought he was frowning for the wrong reason. With hate crime laws, a crime could get you in extra trouble--if Uncle Sam thinks you committed the crime for the wrong reasons. Same difference.

you need to read 1984 again (3.16 / 6) (#48)
by streetlawyer on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 07:38:24 AM EST

The final scenes of 1984 exactly address your point that "there were no mind-readers in 1984". The entire point of psychologically breaking Winston Smith in Room 101 was to ensure that he had no thoughtcrime left, expressed or not. Orwell explicitly says that the Eurasian system was an advance on the Communist executions which allowed a thoughtcriminal to keep his crime alive all the way to the firing squad. You're wrong on the specific point of literature.

You're also wrong on the general point. There is no punishment for expressing opinions; only punishment for expressing opinions *through acts which are themselves criminal independently*. The motive is an aggravating factor for sentencing, which is a well-established legal principle.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
All crime is thoughtcrime. (4.69 / 13) (#24)
by error 404 on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 03:50:46 PM EST

The rest is just liability.

It is the intent that makes the crime.

You break a window and go in someone's house without permission, that's a crime. But if you didn't intend to - say, you were biking and a car hit you in such a way that you were thrown through the window - you still did the same thing, you still broke a window and went in the house, but you committed no crime.

In most jurisdictions, intent (which is a purely mental state) is pretty key to whether an action is a crime. You might have to pay for damages without intent, and there are things like intoxicated vehicular homicide where the intent is indirect (the guy didn't mean to run people over, but he drank intentionaly and drove intentionaly), but what makes it a crime is the state of mind.

Intent isn't the only mental state that matters, though. The real obvious one: the difference between capital murder and self defense is legitimate fear. So there are States that will kill you or put you in jail for a very long time for not being afraid, and I don't think the States involved are wrong (other than the general wrongness of killing people, but that's another issue altogether). Either way, the other guy is dead as a result of your action. The only difference is your state of mind. There is the practical difference that the self-defense killer is only a hazard to people who scare him, but the legal difference is what the person was thinking while he was killing.


..................................
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

The Justification For Hate Crime Legislation (4.83 / 6) (#30)
by Carnage4Life on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 05:46:19 PM EST

A gay man beaten and left to die because he was gay. A black man dragged to death behind a truck because he was black. These are terrible things, and I wish that things like them never happened. But those people are just as dead as a white man or a woman or anyone else would have been. Is it somehow less wrong to kill someone to rob them? Is it less wrong to rape someone for no reason beyond sheer meanness? I don't think so, but some people would have us believe that it is.

Disclaimer: I am a young black man who lives in the southern United States

I agree with your thesis and am wholeheartedly of the opinion that in an ideal world, hate-crime legislation should not exist. The problem is that we do not live in an ideal world.

The original purpose of hate-crime legislation was to ensure that people are punished for their crimes even if the crimes are tacitly approved by the community. Specifically, murders of black people in the southern U.S. that often resulted in the perpetrators going away scot free or with a slap on the wrist. Hate-crime legislation was introduced because murder is not a federal offence and if the state prosecutors decide that killing "niggers" isn't a serious offence then murderers get away with merely a scolding. Hate-crimes are a federal offence and thus are punishable by federal law regardless of how many KKKers are in the state legislature or judiciary.

Hate-crime legislation is flawed, but if this flawed legislation is the only way to punish members of the KKK who murder, mutilate and terrorize minorities because they are safe in the fact that the police, judges and politicians are also KKKers, I am all for it. After having seen communities where the police terrorize the citizens and randomly abuse teenagers while calling them "nigger" to their face, I am of the belief that hate-crime legislation doesn't go far enough with regards to the behavior of the police vs. minorities. Isn't anyone else tired of all the stories of the police attacking & killing minorities and getting away with it?





Re: The Justification For Hate Crime Legislation (3.66 / 3) (#39)
by z on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 09:43:09 PM EST

A news story of not long ago illustrated to me not only the nature of the problem, but why the hate-crime laws are a bad idea.

A mentally retarded man was set upon and severely beaten by a gang of young thugs. The reason they targetted him wasn't because of his mental disability, it was because he lived at an address that had been published in a list of addresses of child molesters. Just as in the case where the victim might be targeted because of membership in a specific ethnic group, he was targeted because the attackers thought their victim had some inferior status and they could likely get away with the assault.

Hate-crime laws are an attempt to alleviate this problem by identifying groups whose members have been crime victims because of their perceived lower status and providing an extra element of protection for those people.

The solution is a bad as the problem though. Instead of attacking the concept that some groups have an inferior status and are acceptable targets, it replaces informal groupings with official legally defined groupings. And protection from hate-crimes is not provided based on any need, but only on the ability of an interest group to convince the legislature to include them in the list of protected groups. In other words, hate-crime laws only protect members of groups that have established politically powerful lobbying organizations.

Crime should be prosecuted and punished based on the nature of and harm caused by the crime. Accomplishing this seems to be difficult, so in order to appear to be doing something government comes up with the notion of "hate-crime".

[ Parent ]

Small correction ... (5.00 / 1) (#55)
by StrontiumDog on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 07:36:55 PM EST

Crime should be prosecuted and punished based on the nature of and harm caused by the crime. Accomplishing this seems to be difficult, so in order to appear to be doing something government comes up with the notion of "hate-crime".

As others have pointed out, there's government and government; specifically State government and Federal Government. Murder lies in the provinces of the State, hate crimes are Federal. The introduction of hate crime legislation was to allow the Federal government to prosecute and punish in murder cases where the State government failed to do so due to inherent racial bias on the part of the State judiciary. As I understand it.

[ Parent ]

Not a deterent (4.33 / 3) (#37)
by MrSpey on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 09:04:43 PM EST

I don't have a reference at hand (or at all, really), but I remember reading a couple places a little while ago about studies showing that increasing the punishment one gets for committing a crime isn't really a deterent against committing it. However, increasing the chances that you'll get caught is a significant deterent. So if you think that an increased penalty for committing a crime that is motivated by hate is going to deter people from committing it, you're wrong. OTOH, allowing the government to step in when the local populace won't do what's right (never mind that defining "what's right" is a discussion by itself) may increase the chances of someone getting punished for a crime, which is a good deterent, never mind it just being a Good Thing in general.

Mr. Spey
Cover your butt. Bernard is watching.

My Concern (3.75 / 4) (#38)
by kagaku_ninja on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 09:41:30 PM EST

A racist who commits a crime did not necessarilly do so with racist intent. A skinhead with swastika tattoos, who is known to make racist remarks, will be facing additional hate-crime penalties, should he injure or kill a member of a minority group.

In theory, the jury will throw out the hate-crime charge, if there is "reasonable doubt". In practice, you better have a good laywer, and that costs money.

Like most laws, they will be used to screw over the poor.

Slippery slope. (4.50 / 6) (#40)
by DavidTC on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 10:12:16 PM EST

The law includes intent, because who here hasn't had, for a fleeting second in anger, the idea of just punching someone. And some people will choose to act on that...and some people will choose to act on it when they have lethal weapons nearby, and use those. We, as society. consider this less worse then plotting someone's death, so we call second degree murder. We consider causing death though negligence the least worse, and we call that manslaughter.

It's all lined up, based on amount of intent. Cool blooded killer is worse then heat of the moment killer, who is worse then careless killer.

The only type of murder that can be a hate crime is anger based murder. Second degree is coming home and finding a man in bed with your spouse, and first degree is killing that same person a week later. :) It is also killing someone because they are the wrong race.

Now, i just want to point out we treat all the motivations the same. It's not a legal excuse 'I had to kill him, he was about to tell the police.' (which isn't based on anger, but fear) anymore then it's a valid excuse 'I had to kill him, he stole my wife.'. Everything is the same in the court of law...except 'hate crimes'.

I don't think this is right. People keep pointing out we already have different level of intent for first, second, and manslaughter...but we aren't talking intent. We're talking motive. No other types of murder, and in fact, no other crimes I can think of at all, are judged on motive. Now, motive might make the judge go easier on you, like if you were robbing a bank to get money for your mother's surgery, or if you were breaking and entering to take back something someone stole from you, but I can't think of anything else where we have seperate crimes for different motives. Actions and intents are the rulers of law.

An intent is what you intend the results to be. This is tricky to decide, but we have standards and other things to help, like 'Did he lie in wait for his victim?. Did he buy the gun directly beforehand? Did he have an escape route planned?' The motive is why you did something, and only god knows that one. I would much rather we judge criminals on things we can actually prove.

P.S. Self defense may look to be a judgement based on motive, but it's actually based on intent. Your intent wasn't to kill him, it was to not be killed.

-David T. C.
Yes, my email address is real.

motives have always mattered for sentencing (3.00 / 2) (#47)
by streetlawyer on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 07:33:38 AM EST

Try this; four men are each accused of murdering another man in cold blood.

Case #1) The victim was a casual acquaintance of the murderer. The motive was a quarrel over an insult.

Case #2) The victim was the father of the murderer. The motive was a quarrel over an insult.

Case #3) The victim was the father of the murderer. The motive was the desire to inherit a large sum of money.

Case #4) The victim was the father of the murder. The motive was the fact that the victim had sexually abused the murderer for a period of thirteen years from 1985-98.

Do you really suppose that the court will not take these circumstances into account? If you do, you're wrong.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
You're right, but... (3.00 / 1) (#53)
by DavidTC on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 01:23:58 PM EST

That's at the sentencing stage, and it reduces the amount of guilt, not adds to it. Assume all these were first degree murder, then the crime is exactly the same. I would also like to note that none of these cases have first amendment implications, trying to inherit money, or being seually molested, isn't a constitutonlly protected activity, while hating black people and saying so publicly is.

I'm not trying to imply the courts don't take motive into consideration in some cases, I'm just saying we don't have different criminal catagories for having different motives. I'd be perfectly happy if a judge decided not to reduce a sentence based on the fact the killing was motivated by hatred. It just think it's insanely stupid to allow crimes to fall into different catagories based on the opinions of criminals.

What's next, we end up with 'drug promotion' crimes, where you get an automatic five years on every drug charge if you have been known to promote the legalization of drugs, or 'unibomber' crimes where you get worse penalties for murder because you hate the government? (That one would be really scary.) These are personal opinions. It doesn't matter if, in these cases, the criminals went outside the bounces of legality in implienting them. They still have the right to hold these opinions.

-David T. C.
Yes, my email address is real.
[ Parent ]

another counterexample (3.33 / 3) (#54)
by streetlawyer on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 01:53:09 PM EST

Case #1) A teacher slaps a 14-year-old girl in order to stop her talking during class.

Case #2) A teacher slaps a 14-year old girl because he is sexually excited by doing so.

Which of these teachers is going down for assault, and which one for child molestation?

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
No. (4.00 / 1) (#59)
by DavidTC on Thu Dec 14, 2000 at 01:50:00 PM EST

At least here in Georgia, all sexual molestation have to do with where you slap someone, and whether they consented, not why, for exactly reasons like that.

Sure, it sounds like a good example, but it's completely outside any legal standard in existence. There are no laws against 'touching someone to get sexually aroused'. Hell, with some teenagers, half the time they brush someone's sleeve of the opposite gender, they become arroused. That is not molesting someone. Molesting someone is when you touch certain part of their body on purpose...for any reason.

-David T. C.
Yes, my email address is real.
[ Parent ]

I support HC legislation (5.00 / 4) (#41)
by barole on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 11:52:36 PM EST

When a black man is dragged to death behind a white supremacist's car, the murdered man is not the only victim - and in the case of a hate crime - was never intended to be. Other black citizens in the region suffer as well, from fear. Some may choose to leave the area; others may curtail their lives to not move to certain neighborhoods or not to go certain places alone. This is the intent behind a hate crime - a crime against an entire segment of society, and this crime (intimidation) should be punished.

The fact that a crime is committed against a minority does not necessarily make it a hate crime. Just because someone is gay or black or whatever does not mean that the punishment should be higher. However, if the perpertrators were trying to intimidate a subgroup of society and prevent them from "pursuit of happiness," then that is an additional crime which should entail additional punishment.

Partially my opinions arise from my position as a gay man. Occasionally, in places I have lived, gay people have been murdered (luckily fairly rare) or attacked in what appeared to be gaybashing. When that happens, how can I still feel safe?

the social message behind HC legislation (2.50 / 2) (#46)
by mircrypt on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 06:46:06 AM EST

At the risk of being redundant given the comments already made, I'll offer up my two cents on this issue and opine that a large part of the rationale behind hate crime legislation is that the law is not meant as merely a static formulation of punishments for crimes committed. The law is also intended to set an example that society is intended to take into account in their actions. i.e. the law is not just there to say if you kill someone you'll be put in jail for 25 to life if we( judge or jury) determine that it was premeditated (murder one). The law is there to say that you will be punished for your actions by a sentence we decide on and you will be punished for your action because we as society, who have chosen to formulate this legislation demanding punishment, feel that what you did was wrong. Esentially, hate crime legislation serves to reinforce the implied statement that the action was wrong, and to highlight that not only was the action wrong, it was made even more reprehensible because it was committed for reasons of prejudice. There is no intention to demean the actions of murder or rape against non-minorities covered under the hate crimes legislation (be it sexual orientation, race, or religion...which notably was not extended to crimes against Muslims) but rather to raise the punishment level as a means to signal to society that: 1) murder and rape will not be tolerated. 2) murder and rape for reasons of hate are not only intolerable, but are viewed as so aberrant and destructive from and to the mores and structure of society that greater penalties will be imposed on those who commit them.
"Experience is not what happens to you; it is what you do with what happens to you". - Aldus Huxley -
How does this not extend to crimes againstMuslims? (3.00 / 1) (#58)
by kazeus on Thu Dec 14, 2000 at 12:02:56 PM EST

I won't argue with your main point, but I found your parenthetical remark to be a bit startling. All the hate crimes legislation I've ever seen has been written to avoid extending hate crimes protection to specific groups, since doing so would be pretty flagrantly unconstitutional. Instead, it protects categories: the statute in question is awfully fond of the phrase "on account of race, color, religion or national origin."

So which laws do not extend to crimes against Muslims? Or is there a bias that shows up in prosecution? If this is true, it's certainly something that deserves a lot more attention than it's currently getting...

__
Why should we plant when there are so many mongongo nuts in the world?
[ Parent ]
prosecution and investigation bias (none / 0) (#60)
by mircrypt on Thu Dec 14, 2000 at 08:36:13 PM EST

From experience as someone havning been mistaken for a muslim, I'm actually hispanic/anglo, and harassed by customs and INS personnel while in transit internationally, buying groceries at the store, and stopped by local police, there is a clear breach of prosecution for what can be termed hate crimes against muslims. I'm not suggesting any government action against muslims, hell, I've worked for the government and know firsthand that any 6 months stint is enough to disavow the vast majority of conspiracy theorists etc...however, I digress. Yes, the law is inclusive of Muslims in its protection, but the stereotype of terrorist, or non-Americans attached to muslim communities is enough to override stringent prosecution of muslim-Americans. I don't mean to say that Americans don't offer the protection of law against hate crimes against Muslims, but as I put it to a friend today, it's one thing to have theory, it's another to implement legislation in practice fairly across the board. Just a thought, but you're right, one that deserves more attention than that which it gets at present.
"Experience is not what happens to you; it is what you do with what happens to you". - Aldus Huxley -
[ Parent ]
Punishing thought... (4.00 / 1) (#51)
by ptackbar on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 09:59:39 AM EST

can you see hate crime legislation getting to this point?

You fail to pay your income taxes out of protest of the government because you hate how it is wasting your tax money. You are obviously anti-government and you hate the government (don't ask me why you're still living here).

Does that mean they can tack on an extra 5 years? Just because you hate the government?

Hate (prejudice) crimes are missing one aspect (5.00 / 2) (#64)
by zavyman on Sat Dec 16, 2000 at 09:43:40 PM EST

When the define a hate crime as based upon prejudice of creed, ethnicity, country of origin, the laws conspicuously miss what arguably is the most common form of group prejudice--economic status.

I'll put this in perspective. Since hate crime laws generate different classes of punishment for different victims (inherently, because you can't possibly be charged with a hate crime if someone matches with your groups--all other statutes focus solely on the offender [only exception here is age, and only in very special circumstances]), what if the punishment were different for killing a CEO of a major corporation. Suppose that someone hated the wealthy in general, and decided to take it out on the first person wearing a suit that came by them. It is certainly a crime motivated by prejudice, so it should be deemed a hate crime, right?

This would not make any sense! This certain class would essentially be given special protection under the law, and it could be justified the same way as the other categories: protection it is not limited to the upper economic classes; it would be just as hateful for a wealthy person to attack someone poorer just out of general hate of that class.

As other's mentioned, hate crimes are largely based on intent vs. motivation. Traditional crimes are charged based on intent, with motivation as (often) a mitigating factor during sentencing. Hate crimes (most likely unconstutionally) allow the federal government to take a role in crimes that are not governed by federal powers, and charge crimes based upon motivation. Too much area for abuse, and it creates more racial, and social divisions.

Hate Crime Legislation Creates "Thoughtcrime." | 64 comments (59 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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