Sweeping Hate Crimes Law Passes Senate

Unfortunately, the Democrats in the Senate got their way Thursday night as a sweeping hate crime bill was passed. In April, it passed the House. The Senate Bill is S. 909.

The hate crimes bill was offered as an amendment to a must-pass defense spending bill that the Senate is expected to finish some time next week. Several Republican amendments to the hate crimes legislation still could be considered on Monday, but Thursday's vote determined that it will be part of the defense bill when it passes.

Laws that increase penalties for "hate crimes" are unnecessary and ill-conceived. I've argued against them since 2000. Rather than quote myself again, I'll quote TChris: [More...]

Hate crimes laws come dangerously close to punishing thought, and freedom of thought is the foundation for all other freedoms. Change the civil laws if need be and make sure that police investigate and prosecutors charge crimes appropriately -- with financial assistance from the feds if need be. But there's no need for the Feds to get further involved in prosecuting state crimes and there's no need for increased penalties, especially when they are based on one's thought processes.

The bill is called The Matthew Shephard Hate Crimes Prevention Act. What happened to the defendants who murdered Matthew Shepard? One pleaded guilty and got life in prison without the possibility of parole -- no hate crime law needed.

The other, Aaron McKinney, went to trial and was convicted of second degree murder, felony murder, robbery and kidnapping. The robbery and kidnapping convictions enabled the prosecution to seek the death penalty. Before deliberations, Matthew Shephards' parents asked the prosecution to drop the death penalty in exchange for McKinney's agreement to two consecutive life sentences and a waiver of his right to appeal. No hate crime law needed there either.

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    I must firmly disagree with you on this, and (5.00 / 7) (#1)
    by andgarden on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 12:23:42 AM EST
    celebrate the passage of this legislation. First, when a hate crime is committed, it is not just an attack on one person, it's an attack on an entire group of people, always a minority. This amendment recognizes that. Second, we already care about what's in the mind of a person accused of committing a crime, and will continue to do so unless we go to a strict liability system of criminal law (and I do not think we should).

    Finally, I think it's really very important to point out that this is an expansion of existing law . In particular, it expands hate crimes protections to gays, lesbians, and transgendered people. Whether this amendment passes or not, the underlying hate crimes legislation will remain in effect. So I have to admit that I find yelling "stop" here, now, and making common cause with people like James Dobson (who opposes the amendment specifically because of who it is designed to protect) gives me a queasy feeling.  

    Well said. As a gay man (5.00 / 9) (#16)
    by kenosharick on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 07:55:11 AM EST
    who has had the crap kicked out of me, and then been laughed at by the police as I stood there bleeding in front of them, I think this is needed.  Not every hate crime ends in a horrific murder, such as in the Shephard case.  Every gay person I know has been assaulted in some way due to their sexual orientation.  I am sick of society tacitly (and not so tacitly) giving permission to the homophobes.  

    Yessir! (5.00 / 1) (#104)
    by ChiTownDenny on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 05:33:10 PM EST
    Hate crime legislation is necessary because it addresses crime perpetrated specifically because of one's thought/disposition toward a class of people; it will act as a deterrent to keep those inclned to do so avoid acting upon their thoughts toward specific classes of people.  One may think what he chooses.  Acting upon one's thought has consequences.  Acting upon one's thoughts toward protected classes of people has/will have more severe consequences.  Those protected do/will experience safety from being associated with protected classes.

    Protected classes? (none / 0) (#112)
    by kdog on Mon Jul 20, 2009 at 11:53:41 AM EST
    What about equality under the law?  Isn't each individual entitled to equal protection?

    Murder, Rape, Kidnapping, Etc. (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 12:28:46 AM EST
    Are already against the law and carry severe penalties. Murder 1 carries life in prison without parole or the death penalty. Do you think that it's currently not against the law to kill a gay person? Do you think this is going to be a deterrent? That someone is going to say "I better not attack this person because I mightget more time in prison now that we have a hate crimes law?"

    Possibly, it will (5.00 / 5) (#4)
    by andgarden on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 12:32:02 AM EST
    But the most important thing that it does is to give the federal government the authority to investigate if the local police will not. If I'm living in Alabama, or central Pennsylvania, that's going to make me feel a little bit more comfortable.

    exactly (5.00 / 2) (#37)
    by kempis on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 10:33:47 AM EST
    Too many judges and juries buy into the defense that an assailant suffered from "gay panic" and thought he had to defend his manhood by beating up or killing a gay man. I'm glad justice was served in Matthew Shepherd's case, but it too often is not in lower profile cases tried in intensely homophobic districts.

    If hate crimes laws force them to discard that defense, which essentially says "of course he killed the f_g; he's normal," then I'm all for it.


    Doesn't Murder One (5.00 / 5) (#17)
    by Steve M on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 08:01:22 AM EST
    "come dangerously close to punishing thought," in the words of TChris?  Isn't the penalty for murder already severe enough that we don't need to increase the penalty just because there was premeditation?

    I have my doubts about the application of hate crime laws, but I'm not sure what makes them different from the umpteen other cases where the law takes intent into account.


    Precisely (none / 0) (#51)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 11:21:16 AM EST
    great post, Donald. Thank you. (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by kempis on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 10:35:06 AM EST
    A hustler who suddenly (none / 0) (#96)
    by jondee on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 02:21:30 PM EST
    became hateful towards gays? Talk about picking the wrong line of work.

    Sounds more like your standard vicious murder- robbery on the part of someone who saw their oppurtunity and took it.


    I have no objection to (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 12:32:20 AM EST
    passing civil laws to protect people against hate crimes or the feds providing funds to states to assist them in investigating suspected crimes that will be prosecuted in state courts. We don't need to try these cases in federal court and we should try people for their actions, not the motives behind them, real or perceived.

    Some states cannot be trusted to (5.00 / 5) (#6)
    by andgarden on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 12:34:38 AM EST
    effectively protect people from these kinds of crimes. That's one of the reasons why we have a Justice Department in the first place, BTW.

    Who protects (2.00 / 0) (#14)
    by Wile ECoyote on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 05:19:01 AM EST
    the job of law enforcement is to investigate and prevent future occurrences.  If you want to be protected you have to do it yourself.  When seconds count, the cops are minutes away.  

    And because I doubt you're proposing (none / 0) (#7)
    by andgarden on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 12:36:47 AM EST
    that we move to strict liability, how do you distinguish hate crimes laws from normal mens rea?

    Not the issue (none / 0) (#8)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 12:45:49 AM EST
    The issue is we don't need the bolded language in this law because every state already provides severe penalties for the underlying crime.

    OFFENSES INVOLVING ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED RACE, COLOR, RELIGION, OR NATIONAL ORIGIN- Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person --

    Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, in any circumstance described in subparagraph (B) or paragraph (3), willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability of any person--

    I thought the reason for these kinds of laws (5.00 / 5) (#23)
    by NealB on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 09:03:21 AM EST
    is that the race, religion, sexual orientation of the victim is still used so often to justify the murder and defend the killer. For so long, in so many places, we still hear that it's ok to kill or maim gays, blacks, jews, to rape women because they deserve it. And trial outcomes prove over and over again that blame-the-victim defense tactics work. Thugs, rapists, killers, police get away with violent crime against members of these minorities all the time.

    Well, I think it is an issue (none / 0) (#9)
    by andgarden on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 12:51:40 AM EST
    but leaving that aside, I just don't think we're going to agree on the propriety of including the bolded language.

    I think it's probably within the capability of the fact finder to make a determination like that, and when it is, I want it to be done.


    Ok, thanks for your thoughts (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 01:20:51 AM EST
    We'll just have to disagree on this one. I'm looking at it from a defense lawyers' point of view.

    I do not see how (none / 0) (#50)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 11:20:47 AM EST
    this represents a defense laywer's view.

    Unless you are arguing for strict liability and the removal of mens rea as an element of criminal law, I simply do not follow your argument.


    I assume those who disfavor (none / 0) (#52)
    by oculus on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 11:22:57 AM EST
    hate crime statutes prefer the criminal conduct at issue be subject to lesser sentences for assault, battery, etc.  

    Then that is what they should write (none / 0) (#54)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 11:32:45 AM EST
    The "thought crimes" stuff reads like a red herring to me.

    Yes (none / 0) (#56)
    by squeaky on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 11:44:19 AM EST
    Considering that people have been convicted of "thought crimes" already, for writing sexual fantasies only. Sessions should now be prosecuted for Hate Crimes. The mere thought, and expression of Hate should be prosecuted on the same level as someone writing or thinking about pedophilia.

    I am against this legislation, but were it applied as to people like Jeff Session, we would have to build a jail for 80% of the deep south.


    I am not sure what (5.00 / 3) (#59)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 11:50:40 AM EST
    you are saying. But as far as I know the actual act of thinking hateful thoughts is not at issue - but rather whether animus based on sexual orientation leading to a violent act being treated as a more serious offense than say, violence based on pecuniary motives (robbery).

    As I understand the concept of the criminal law, WHY you committed a crime has long been recognized as a reasonable factor to consider.

    First Degree Murder refers to the ct of killing someone with premeditation.

    Second Degree, intent to kill but based on impulse rather than prior thought.

    Third Degree, involuntary manslaughter. And so on.

    Also consider federal and local laws that create special laws for killing law enforcement officiers.

    OR better yet, laws about planning to or even speaking of killing the President.

    You cna be against hate crimes laws - but the idea that it creates a "thought crime" is a red herring. You must ACT on the thought.


    Agree (none / 0) (#63)
    by squeaky on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 12:03:20 PM EST
    That premeditation has long been a factor in sentencing. So why not just stick with what we have? It seems harsh enough already, imo.

    My point is that if someone can be convicted of thinking about doing something that is illegal, (preemptive justice?) how will extending hate crime legislation fit in.

    Should people who express hate be jailed in order to preempt an actual physical crime?  

    Or will this allow Sessions, Ricci, et al to allege hate crimes against them for being white.  

    Seems like a slippery slope to me.


    lol (none / 0) (#64)
    by squeaky on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 12:11:11 PM EST
    I guess this is sort of like affirmative action, aka equal opportunity. White male rapes, kills black female, historically is punished less than if a black male, rapes or kills a white woman.

    Hate crime has been applied unevenly here, even though never stated as such. IOW black does something against white it is generalized as a threat against all whites. Time for balancing the scales?

    Replace gay etc, for black to fill out the argument.


    Not sure (5.00 / 2) (#105)
    by Inspector Gadget on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 06:36:19 PM EST
    I see where "LOL" fits into this discussion under any circumstances....there is NOTHING about this that is laughable, and not one person has said anything that reads like a joke.

    But this is just wrong (none / 0) (#65)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 12:13:22 PM EST
    "My point is that if someone can be convicted of thinking about doing something that is illegal"

    No on can be convicted of that. Precisely why TChris' argument is a red herring.


    not the argument (none / 0) (#94)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 02:17:32 PM EST
    It's about enhancing the penalty for someone who actually committed a crime based on their motivation behind it.

    Not entirely true (none / 0) (#67)
    by jbindc on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 12:15:18 PM EST
    That premeditation has long been a factor in sentencing.

    "Premeditation" is part of the crime charged and the crime that is prosecuted.  In first degree murder, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant.  In common law (and where most states grab their definition), it is  defined as "The unlawful killing of another human being with intent (or malice aforethought)."

    So it's actually an element of the crime that has to be proven.  As would be the case in this hate crimes legislation - a prosecutor would have to prove a defendant committed a bodily harm or death based on the victim's race, sex, sexual orientation.  It is actually an ENHANCEMENT on top of a murder/assault charge.


    That's my understanding (none / 0) (#79)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 01:09:37 PM EST
    as well. I am waiting for the criminal lawyers to explain to me if I am wrong.

    Different argument (none / 0) (#75)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 12:52:35 PM EST
    I disagree with you but OBJECT to TChris' argument, endorsed by Heralyn, that this is a thought crime.

    It is certainly not and it is a red herring to argue that it is.


    it's not a red herring (none / 0) (#70)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 12:45:21 PM EST
    and we already have crimes that severely punish these offenses. Intent is not the same thing as motive. Intent is the state of mind in committing the act -- intentionally, knowingly, wilfully. It is not the reason someone commits the crime. It's the state of awareness they have about their actions.

    These laws are duplicative and unnecessary.

    Life without parole for murder 1, life or double digit years for murder two, sex offenses etc. are already on the books. These laws apply to offenses against those in minority groups.

    And yes, it's how a defense lawyer thinks.


    The red herring was (none / 0) (#71)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 12:48:33 PM EST
    and is the "thought crime" charge.

    Your actual argument, whatever its merit, it seems to me is this  - "These laws are duplicative and unnecessary."

    That is a matter of opinion.

    I take it you also disapprove of special laws regarding violence against law enforcement officers.

    And special laws for violence against the President.

    Those are "duplicative and unnecessary" as well, under your reasoning.


    Yes (5.00 / 1) (#93)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 02:15:27 PM EST
    I take it you also disapprove of special laws regarding violence against law enforcement officers.

    And special laws for violence against the President.

    Violent crimes in most states carry severe penalties. They are subject to different parole rules (e.g., in many states you are not elible for parole for a crime of violence at the same time as other crimes.) There's no need to bump these penalties based solely on the status of the victim.


    I gotta say, you're convincing me. (none / 0) (#95)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 02:19:16 PM EST
    How much of passing laws that purportedly benefit one group or another is plain old pandering?

    Although some criminal offense do have (none / 0) (#72)
    by oculus on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 12:50:26 PM EST
    an intent element:  robbery and kidnapping come to mind.

    I would add that (none / 0) (#73)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 12:51:01 PM EST
    "motivation" not "intent" is what differentiates first degree murder from second degree murder.

    As I understand it, both crimes require proving "intent" while first degree murder requires a showing of premeditation, to wit, that you THOUGHT about murdering before you did it.

    Please explain to me if I am wrong on this point.


    premeditation (none / 0) (#97)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 02:52:29 PM EST
     refers to the intention to take away the life of a human being. For example, in Colorado it means "After deliberation and with the intent to cause the death of a person other than himself, he causes the death of that person or of another person; It's not why he takes away the life.

    "After deliberation" or premeditation refers to the requirement that there must be at least enough time to permit one thought to follow another. That's why an impulsive killing cannot be first degree murder. It's about whether there is an interval sufficient for one to consider ones contemplated action before carrying it out.

    Ok, I'm going back to work.


    by the way (none / 0) (#74)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 12:52:20 PM EST
    TalkLeft as a criminal defense website and blog officially opposes criminal hate crime laws that provide increased penalties for existing crimes or create new crimes for acts already punishable by significant penalties. It has since 2000 (when it was just a website, pre-blog.)

    You are free in comments to disagree politely. But that is TalkLeft's position.


    I thought I was disagreeing politely (none / 0) (#77)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 01:08:14 PM EST
    More than that, other than posts where I just quote a statement, I always sign my posts "Speaking for me only."

    I hope no one thinks that the official positions of Talk Left always represent my views.

    In this case, as well as on the view that the Second Amendment created an individual right to bear arms, I find Talk Left's views to be not only wrong, but out of mainstream thinking.

    Heller was decidedly an extreme decision unmoored from the text of the Constitution, the understanding of the Founders, counter to the philosphy of states rights activists and decidedly intellectually dishonest.

    I imagine we disagree on many many things.

    For example, I think few at this site, including yourself, agree with my views on President Obama's Afghanistan policy, on free trade, etc.

    I know we disagree on the potential constitutionality of a preventive detention regime.

    I am pretty sure people understand we disagree on many things.


    you were definitely being polite (none / 0) (#91)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 02:06:18 PM EST
    I wasn't referring to you in that part of my comment. Sorry. And yes, you have been very polite. And knowing that many TL readers disagree with me, I have tried to say a few times in this thread that it is okay to express your disagreement in comments.  

    Yes, you and I, and you and TChris, disagree on some topics, which is what makes us more interesting to read. But TalkLeft, as an entity, only takes official positions on crime and constitutional issues.

    (Interesting that in the six years TChris has posted here, I've never disagreed with one of his posts. But that's because we see things through the same defense lawyers' lens.)


    I disagree (none / 0) (#49)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 11:19:41 AM EST
    andsgarden is right that ther motivation is the issue. Mens rea indeed.

    Your comment is nonresponsive to andgarden's point.


    Law enforcement in FL is listing (none / 0) (#55)
    by oculus on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 11:38:57 AM EST
    motives for the murder of the couple who had so many adopted special needs children.  Kind of surprised me, actually.  

    I my city, within just the past (5.00 / 2) (#27)
    by KeysDan on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 09:23:24 AM EST
    two weeks, we have experienced brutal robberies of gay men out walking at 9 pm.  The robberies appeared to be secondary to the targeting of gay men or men thought to be gay.  The crimes carry the intent to not only harm the victim, but also, to terrorize a group. And, it does do that.   As with the purpose of some laws in the civil rights area, we, hopefully, will outgrow the need for a hate crimes law.  At present, however, a clear need for such attention is required.

    Kinda O/T (5.00 / 1) (#39)
    by CST on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 10:38:41 AM EST
    But if you have the opportunity to see the Laramie Project (the play, I don't know about the movie) I highly recommend it.  Incredibly moving, well planned.  It gets you to relax a bit and laugh before it hits you in the gut, which makes the gut hitting all the more effective.

    I've been quiet in this discussion so far (5.00 / 1) (#66)
    by Carolyn in Baltimore on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 12:13:31 PM EST
    So many of you are criminal lawyers and know much more about the ins and outs of prosecution etc.
    All I can see, though, is the stories of lynchings and murders during the Civil Rights era - where justice was not served by the locals who believed the victim deserved what they got. Acquittals, minimal sentences, or killed investigations. Justice delayed until the Feds got involved. Justice delayed for 40 years and more.
    Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, church bombings., lynchings and cross burnings.
    Those are the reasons we have this law.
    Adding Sexual perceived sexual preference and gender identity only adds to helping preserve justice for those harmed because of their status.

    The religious right is not against the law per se - they feel their fundamentalist views are under attack and demand protection. They just don't want the people they would attack to have protections.

    I also see hate crimes as crimes meant to 'send a message' to uppity people who don't 'fit in' to the status quo. The sending a message part of the equation is not a 'thought crime' it is a terrorist act meant to stifle minorities and keep them in their places - invisible and powerless.

    I am sure there are many flaws to this bill. I would love to have an egalitarian society where I could expect the police and authorities to fairly provide for justice. Wouldn't that be great. In our dreams......
    In the meantime I will take what can be done to level the playing field and to provide some additional penalties to acts of terrorism.

    Too little, too late (none / 0) (#87)
    by jondee on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 01:42:48 PM EST
    when it REALLY counted, those that are now grandstanding for their respective constiuencies -- while being of course onguard, as always, not overly offend the religious reich -- did less than nothing.

    If we're going to have a bill tacked onto another obscene "defense" spending package, maybe we should make it about declaring a national day of apology and mourning  for all the decades of public "lynching bees" and Leviticus squad persecutions that were countanenced by all the red state-blue state watchers of days passed.

    Now that its barely (arguably) needed, we're supposed to deeply moved by this belated concern for victims of hate and intolerance.


    Depends on context of minority (5.00 / 1) (#88)
    by CST on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 01:49:38 PM EST
    a federal minority or a local minority.

    I have some experience with what you're talking about, growing up in public school where everyone else who was white went to Catholic school.  It wasn't pretty.  But I would say, that in my local environment, I was the minority in that situation whether or not I was a minority in a federal, or even city/state sense.

    Good point, (none / 0) (#90)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 01:59:53 PM EST
    I was thinking standard societal definitions of "minority."

    It's not gonna make it any safer.... (2.00 / 0) (#18)
    by kdog on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 08:11:39 AM EST
    to be gay in this country...I don't think violent bigots are thinking about what the charges are gonna be when they get to assaulting or worse.

    Why clog the law books and give federal prosecutors another weapon when they already have quite the cache?  

    Every violent crime involves hate...I don't see why any particular brand of hate needs to be singled out...and I don't buy that an assault on an individual is necessarily an assault on a group, I think that is getting too liberal with assigning motivations to violent whackjobs....it is possible for a straight to hate an indivdual gay person and not all gay people, or a white to hate an individual black person and not all blacks...and prosecutors will use this law regardless.

    Will there be a tsunami (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by Fabian on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 08:46:52 AM EST
    of hate crimes prosecution just because this bill passed?

    I don't think so.


    They pass 'em... (none / 0) (#21)
    by kdog on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 08:54:54 AM EST
    and they use 'em Fabian...and we've got the shameful prison population to prove it.

    We do not have a shameful (5.00 / 6) (#33)
    by MO Blue on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 10:20:09 AM EST
    prison population because too many people have been convicted of hate crimes. Decriminalization of drug use would reduce the population substantially. Eliminating the Hate Crimes Bill, probably wouldn't even effect the rounding of the population numbers.

    I understand, and have (5.00 / 3) (#20)
    by dk on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 08:53:42 AM EST
    some sympathy, for your doubts that such laws have much, if any, of a deterrence effect (though, of course, you could make the same argument against all crime laws on all levels, so I'm not certain the argument is any more or less effective here).

    But what about the argument that the federal government should step in with regard to protecting citizens when local and state authorities refuse, based on their discriminatory practices, to pursue those who commit crimes against them (i.e. criminals who commit crimes against gay people because the victims are gay).  Do you think that doesn't happen?  If you think it does happen, what should be done about it?


    Any nastiness... (none / 0) (#22)
    by kdog on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 09:02:47 AM EST
    can and will happen with local authorities...thats why they call them authorities:)  I don't doubt for a second that it happens.

    Is there no other way to get local authorities to do their jobs than creating new federal criminal law? Instead of sicking the feds on the criminals local authorities won't prosecute, how about we sick the feds on the local authorities?  A cop or prosecutor who won't arrest or prosecute a violent crime because the victim is gay should be fired.  


    That's my question too. (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by dk on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 09:12:41 AM EST
    And I think it then comes down to having statistics.  I mean, if studies show that the problem is somewhat isolated in certain pockets of the country, it could be manageable to implement the kind of solution you suggest.  But if the problem is pervasive, that solution would seem less possible.  

    Like I said, I'm of two minds about it, and am certainly not steeped in the latest numbers.  But I'm not philosophically opposed to federal government action in connection with civil rights issues.  It's one tool, and whether it's the tool to be used depends on the facts on the ground, IMO.


    I don't know if I'd call this... (none / 0) (#28)
    by kdog on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 09:24:10 AM EST
    a civil rights issue, this bill doesn't address gays being denied equal rights...it addresses murder, rape, assault etc. and adds a penalty based on the interpretation of the criminal's motivation....when what we need is a bill to make state and local authorities do their jobs, that is a civil rights issue...local authorities denying gays equal protection under the law.

    I am resigned to the fact we can't legislate away hate and bigotry without getting tyrannical...we can only attempt to combat discrimination, in this case on the part of local authorities...I'm afraid hate and bigotry are here to stay, education and love are our only weapons against hate.


    It's a civil rights issue (5.00 / 2) (#29)
    by andgarden on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 09:30:01 AM EST
    when some minorities are protected by this legislation and others are not. So here's my point, if you're opposed to this expansion, then logically you need to be for repealing the underlying bill. And if you think more than a handful of the Senators who voted for this amendment yesterday are opposed to the underlying legislation, then I've got a Ukrainian bridge to sell you.

    The only reason that there is any political opposition to the Matthew Shepard act, beyond principled (though wrong, IMO) opposition like Jeralyn's, is because it protects the icky gays.


    I am for the repeal... (none / 0) (#30)
    by kdog on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 09:43:52 AM EST
    of all the "hate crime" laws...didn't mean to imply just the expansion.

    I guess I don't understand the (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by dk on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 09:53:12 AM EST
    argument that it's not a civil rights issue.  

    The government (particularly state and local government) has police power.  If that power (in the form of protecting citizens and prosecuting those who commit crimes) is applied in a discriminatory fashion with regard to protected classes of citizens, isn't that a civil rights issue?


    Yes, (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by kdog on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 10:09:36 AM EST
    local police and prosecutors not offering equal protection to gays is a civil rights issue, but this bill isn't adressing that...a bill penalizing or forcing local authorities to do the job they swore to do would be adressing the civil rights issue.

    iow, instead of adressing the civil rights issue, congress has created new federal crimes instead with all this hate crime nonsense. Local authorites are still free to ignore their duty to gays...I'd like a bill to address that.


    Do your job or else (5.00 / 1) (#42)
    by Carolyn in Baltimore on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 10:51:46 AM EST
    I doubt there would be many prosecutions for dereliction if such a law was passed.

    The Hate Crimes statutes do enforce the actions of the locals. Local authorities hate when the Feds take over the case - and now there is the threat that the Feds will get involved if the investigation and prosecution of crimes against certain minorities are not adequately vigorous.


    I had a little more accountability... (none / 0) (#44)
    by kdog on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 10:59:21 AM EST
    for local authorities in mind than simply losing a collar or "hating" the feds taking over...I'm thinking termination or fines for police and prosecutors.

    Why do you doubt such a law would be prosecuted any more or less than a hate crime law?  because no long prison sentences would be attached?


    It is a lot easier (5.00 / 4) (#45)
    by Steve M on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 11:12:15 AM EST
    for the feds to just prosecute someone themselves, as opposed to forcing local authorities who don't really want to prosecute and monitoring them vigilantly to make sure they make a real effort.

    I don't see how there's any constitutional authority for the federal government to tell a unit of state government that they have to fire a certain person.  And in terms of fines, it strikes me as very challenging to ask the feds to watch over local police and prosecutors to make sure they're conducting a "real" investigation and bringing a "real" prosecution.  Far easier to just do the job yourself.

    There's plenty of precedent in the history of this country for the feds to take local justice into their own hands, and for the most part it worked out pretty well.


    Here is my fear.... (none / 0) (#47)
    by kdog on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 11:18:58 AM EST
    some dirtbag roughs up and mugs a gay person for their rolex, and instead of letting the local authorities prosecute an assault and theft the federal prosecutor comes running hate crime bill in hand making a hate crime out of a mugging...and assorted sh*t like that.

    Anybody doubt that is gonna happen?


    Federal prosecutors have their (none / 0) (#57)
    by oculus on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 11:46:07 AM EST
    hands full reviewing and prosecuting federal drug law violations and immigration cases.  I don't anticipate they will "come running" re the Rolex robbery unless it is obvious the victim was targeted due to his sexual preference and the local prosecutor declines to prosecute.  Even then, I doubt the federal prosecutors will frequently prosecute such cases.

    Not really (none / 0) (#60)
    by jbindc on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 11:51:10 AM EST
    Since part of the crime charged would be that the prosecution would have to prove it was motivated by race, sex, sexual orientation, disability, etc.

    I doubt some local prosecutor is going to want the feds involved every time a gay person is mugged for their Rolex.


    That's your fear? (none / 0) (#61)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 11:52:50 AM EST
    Indeed, and again, the very purpose (none / 0) (#48)
    by andgarden on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 11:19:36 AM EST
    of the Justice Department in the first place was to do what local authorities could or would not (the radical Republicans weren't messing around).

    And the kind of legislation kdog is asking for would have a big Printz problem, IMO.


    Disagree (none / 0) (#80)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 01:10:18 PM EST
    we have way over-federalized state and local crime. Especially drug crimes. There's a reason rape, murder, assault, kidnapping are tried in state courts except in limited circumstances (it occurs on an Indian reservation or there's an interstate element or Joe Biden got a bee in his crime bill bonnet) and it should stay that way.

    Philosophically, I am not a great believer (none / 0) (#83)
    by andgarden on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 01:15:43 PM EST
    in localized governance. But IMO the civil war amendments allow just what is being done.

    To defend Jeralyn here (none / 0) (#84)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 01:17:27 PM EST
    I do not believe she is arguing that this is unconstitutional but instead that this is bad policy.

    Agreed (none / 0) (#85)
    by andgarden on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 01:23:14 PM EST
    But I also rest on the merits of my position,

    Your position rests on a foundation (none / 0) (#107)
    by Rojas on Sat Jul 18, 2009 at 08:56:25 AM EST
    of sand IMHO. While I can understand and share your distrust of local governance, a centralized system such as the one you speak of is the shortest path to tyranny. My god, just look around. Why do you think the banksters got all the stimulus money?

    From a systems perspective, I would compare the system you propose to direct all your quality assets to end of line rework and inspection.

    I agree that the civil war amendments make Washington the final arbitrator of these fundamental protections. I think we can agree that this is clear. But I believe they understood that the best use of this new power was to have compliance among the local administrators. When they act, under the color of law, in a way to deny or abridge fundamental protections that is the time to drop the hammer. We could turn this pony on a dime by making a very few district attorneys answer to denial of civil rights charges. But simply prosecuting individual offenders at the federal level is tantamount to sifting grains of sand.


    Well, to me it does seem (none / 0) (#35)
    by dk on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 10:29:59 AM EST
    to address the issue in the sense that it is saying that in cases where local/state authorities refuse to exercise police power for certain classes of citizens, the federal government will do it instead.

    The question to me is whether that is whether it is the most effective method of addressing the civil rights issue (effective both in the sense of guaranteeing civil rights protections without creating an undue amount of unintended negative consequences).  The answer to that question seems to me to be an empirical issue.


    Unintended negative consequences... (none / 0) (#40)
    by kdog on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 10:42:16 AM EST
    thats the rub...I think we will see them more than if we passed a "Do your job" bill with criminal penalties for police and prosecutors in dereliction of their duty.

    I see your point, I guess it does address the issue, just not in the most effective and least harmful way.


    One of the problems is (none / 0) (#24)
    by andgarden on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 09:07:30 AM EST
    that it can difficult for the Federal government to tell local authorities what to do. The problem there is the way the Supreme Court reads the Constitution.

    Congress... (none / 0) (#26)
    by kdog on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 09:13:42 AM EST
    can at least try and pass the "Police and Prosecutor Accountability Act" and let the Supremes make the call on consitutionality when the time comes...but all Congress knows how to do is crack down on criminals who don't wear badges or sit on the people's side in the courtroom.

    Your statement is a generality and (5.00 / 1) (#53)
    by oculus on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 11:27:10 AM EST
    not entirely accurate.  The federal government has prosecuted law enforcement officers even though the state/county has declined to do so.

    And the federal government has protected (none / 0) (#106)
    by Rojas on Sat Jul 18, 2009 at 08:08:06 AM EST
    law enforcement officers from state prosecution when they commit crimes. Look to the murder of Vickey Weaver for a recent example.

    The power is there, the amendments have been (none / 0) (#109)
    by Rojas on Sat Jul 18, 2009 at 09:16:36 AM EST
    passed. All they have to do is turn the switch back on. It used to work to a fashion and there was "fear of god" so to speak that kept police and prosecutors looking over their shoulders. Reagan and Bush one may have dimmed the lights a bit, but Clinton and Biden switched off the lights completely. Now we hold the joint task force as a paragon of virtue where the locals and the feds split the loot. The cockroaches are runnin' free.

    Unfortunately, the Senate (none / 0) (#34)
    by JThomas on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 10:23:49 AM EST
    attached this to a defense spending bill that includes funding for the ill-fated F-22 which both Gates and Obama have fought against..so I think it will get vetoed and have to come back as a stand alone bill. The Senate messed this up.

    I dunno (none / 0) (#36)
    by Steve M on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 10:31:40 AM EST
    why would you veto a bill over a single appropriation?  The Pentagon is under the jurisdiction of the Executive Branch.  If Obama doesn't want the F-22 program, he has full authority to cancel it, regardless of whether Congress has appropriated money for it or not.

    Vengeance (none / 0) (#41)
    by squeaky on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 10:50:54 AM EST
    This law will have no affect on Hate crimes. Just a little something for those who like to see a$$holes fry a little longer on higher heat.

    What it will have an affect on are defendants whose crimes are  categorized "Hate Crimes" so that an overzealous Prosecutor can have a few more notches in his or her belt.

    We are sick enough when it comes to jailing people, no need to add another level to crimes, imo. Must be our ever mutating strain of puritanism.

    Actually, prosecution of a "hate crime" (5.00 / 1) (#58)
    by oculus on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 11:49:31 AM EST
    is incredibly difficult and not undertaken lightly.

    Yes (none / 0) (#62)
    by jbindc on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 11:52:54 AM EST
    And since more than 50% of the prison population s there because of violent crimes (and not drug offenses, as many think), prosecutors certainly do have their hands full.

    More often, enancers are charged so that (none / 0) (#68)
    by Ben Masel on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 12:34:22 PM EST
    they can be bargained away to get guilty pleas.

    That is a rather cynical view! (none / 0) (#69)
    by oculus on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 12:37:26 PM EST
    I don't agree, although I'm sure it happens.  Just apply the law to the facts, ma'am.

    Ben states correctly (none / 0) (#108)
    by Rojas on Sat Jul 18, 2009 at 08:59:16 AM EST
    the official position of Reno's DOJ.

    This is why I support civil committment (none / 0) (#103)
    by NewDemocrat9999 on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 04:13:55 PM EST
    as the punishment for hate crimes.  I think such a sentence, with treatment for bigotry until the offender is cured, would be a better solution to this problem.

    I disagree with both you and TChris (none / 0) (#46)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 11:17:18 AM EST
    It is akin to arguing that premeditation as a factor in criminal law is a "thought crime."

    Very facile argument. Quite empty to my ears.

    Not at all (none / 0) (#76)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 01:05:34 PM EST
    pre-meditation has nothing to do with motive. It has to do with whether one committed an act after  a period of reflection, deliberately.  It refers to a period of time which must be long enough, after initially deciding to commit the crime,  for the person to have been fully conscious of and have considered the act he is about to commit.

    Deliberation and pre-meditation pertain to one's capacity to reflect on what they are doing and make a choice -- whether to commit an unlawful act or not.

    Other Intent for major crimes: Intentionally (intended to do the act and cause the result, e.g., rape, kidnap, kill); Knowingly (aware their conduct would cause the result), wilfully, etc.


    In other words (none / 0) (#81)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 01:11:36 PM EST
    whether you THOUGHT about it first.

    Sounds like a THOUGHT crime to me by your definition.


    no, not thought (none / 0) (#92)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 02:09:54 PM EST
    in that sense. It has nothing to do with the why or motive behind the act.

    Yeah (none / 0) (#86)
    by squeaky on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 01:24:15 PM EST
    Just like the character in the Swedish movie, They Call Her One Eye, which Kill Bill referenced.

    Beat down a group, or individual, long enough and they will lash out at all who remotely fit the description of their attackers.

    So we're in agreement that hate crimes (none / 0) (#89)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 01:52:43 PM EST
    are not solely perpetrated upon minorities?

    Whick kinda brings us back too... (none / 0) (#98)
    by kdog on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 03:22:59 PM EST
    what violent crime isn't a hate crime?

    I'm starting to think hate crime legislation actually creates inequality under the law, as does the special status afforded law enforcement officers.


    I'm starting to think the same way... (none / 0) (#99)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 03:26:41 PM EST
    Hate (none / 0) (#100)
    by squeaky on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 03:50:48 PM EST
    Many crimes are driven by hate. I believe that violent crimes should be treated as such. The legislating of extra ways to put people in jail, for longer or whatever, makes me nervous.

    Slippery slope, imo.


    I would go further (none / 0) (#101)
    by NewDemocrat9999 on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 04:11:03 PM EST
    than the Senate bill, personally.  I believe that anyone convicted of a hate crime should not only serve their term but should be held under civil committment (like sex offenders) for treatment until they are cured of their bigotry.  
    If a bigot is not willing to undergo sensitivity/diversity training, then they should be held.  I think you'll see the amount of bigotry decrease significantly fairly quickly of those committed of hate crimes.

    In addition (none / 0) (#102)
    by NewDemocrat9999 on Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 04:12:08 PM EST
    Although hate speech is protected by the First Amendment currently, I strongly disagree with such a doctrine, and I am hopeful that in the future we can reinterpret the 1st amendment to not consider hate speech protected.  I like the European approach much better with regard to hate speech, with the addition of treatment for bigotry being part of the solution.  

    Because a monopoly on the truth (5.00 / 1) (#110)
    by Rojas on Sat Jul 18, 2009 at 09:33:59 AM EST
    is a fine thing to entrust to the federal government.

    Waste of taxpayer money (none / 0) (#111)
    by catmandu on Mon Jul 20, 2009 at 11:01:13 AM EST
    If the gov't would get tough on crime, we wouldn't need a crazy quilt of bizaar thought crime laws.  Just prosecute crimes.  
    It should be no different if the killer hated someone's race or someone's shirt.  Get serious about prosecuting crime.