Senate Adds Expanded Death Penalty to Hate Crimes Bill

Two things I already knew: Sen. Jeff Sessions is a danger as the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate's Hate Crimes bill is ill-conceived legislation.

Things I now know: It's worse than I thought. The ACLU reports the Senate yesterday approved an Amendment by Jeff Sessions expanding the use of the death penalty for hate crimes. (Why not just life plus cancer as a penalty while he's at it?)

From the ACLU and then an action alert to get this removed.

The U.S. Senate yesterday passed an amendment extending the death penalty for certain hate crimes. The amendment, sponsored by Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), was added to the hate crimes amendment to the Defense authorization bill that passed last Thursday. In a letter sent to Senators, the American Civil Liberties Union urged lawmakers to oppose this misguided and wrong expansion of the federal death penalty.


“The expansion of the federal death penalty stands in stark contrast to furthering the cause of civil rights in the United States,” said Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel. “The death penalty is always wrong. Capital punishment has been proven to be such an expensive and discriminatory punishment that Congress should oppose any effort to expand its scope and reach. At a time when evidence is mounting that scores of innocent defendants have been sentenced to death, Congress should steer clear of expanding the death penalty."

Let's also not forget:

In addition to this death penalty amendment, the ACLU also did not support the underlying hate crime provision in the defense authorization bill which would have a chilling effect on free speech and association. The U.S. House of Representatives has a welcome version of the hate crimes bill that protects speech and association as well as gives the federal government new authority to prosecute certain violent acts based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.

From the NCADP:

Please contact your members of congress (House and Senate) to urge them to remove the death penalty provision when it goes to conference.

You can reach the US Capitol switchboard at 202.224.3121 and ask for your Senator's or Representative's office. If you do not know who your two U.S. Senators or your Representative are, or for their direct office phone numbers and e-mail addresses, go here:

AFTER YOU CALL, please forward this message to your friends, family, etc. and ask them to call, and then please also send an e-mail to each of your two Senators and your Representative.

Update: From QWERTY

Now that both the Senate and House have okay'd Defense Department budget bills, the differences in them will be ironed out by a special committee before final votes are taken in both houses in September. This provides one last opportunity to change the Senate's version of hate crimes legislation before it goes to Obama's desk, meaning Sessions' amendments which Gay Inc. is calling overreaching and outrageous could still be yanked at the last minute. (The House passed a standalone hate crimes bill.)
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  • Display: Sort:
    What acts of violence against (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by nycstray on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 12:36:14 PM EST
    gender are considered a HC?

    Very good question... (none / 0) (#4)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 01:17:56 PM EST
    Since TL is a law blog, somebody could probably tell us in a nutshell. Please?

    Perhaps This (none / 0) (#6)
    by squeaky on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 01:30:54 PM EST
    Valerie Solanas in the Warhol shooting.

    From her manifesto:

    Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex. It is now technically feasible to reproduce without the aid of males (or, for that matter, females) and to produce only females. We must begin immediately to do so... The male is a biological accident.

    Also if Chris Matthews attacked a woman, there would be ample evidence that it would be a hate crime.... lol


    Heh, there are days I agree (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by nycstray on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 02:22:41 PM EST
    with her, lol!~

    I am curious how they would define "hate" when it comes to violence against women. Do they have to hate all women or just "that woman"?


    Seems Obvious To Me (none / 0) (#10)
    by squeaky on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 02:43:52 PM EST
    That hate crimes have to transcend the individual and must relate to hating a specific group.

    So if you hate someone with all your guts, and harm them, the penalty would not be enhanced.


    I thought .the hate due to victim's gender, . (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by oculus on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 02:48:17 PM EST
    ethnicty, sexual orientation, etc. had to be the motive (beyond a reasonable doubt).  Could be other reasons of course.  

    That's correct (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by Steve M on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 02:54:29 PM EST
    a hate crime must be (i) a crime of violence; (ii) a felony; and (iii) motivated by prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim.

    Can you illustrate a situation (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by nycstray on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 03:14:06 PM EST
    where it would apply to a crime against women? Yes, I'm that dense right now :)

    Maybe..... (none / 0) (#16)
    by Inspector Gadget on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 03:18:28 PM EST
    prostitutes? Green River killer. Serial killers often target women because of a deep-seeded hatred for them...at least according to the movies.

    That may be true (none / 0) (#30)
    by Fabian on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 05:39:10 PM EST
    but usually it's because prostitutes are accessible and available and the crimes against low status prostitutes are less likely to be investigated well.

    Perhaps (none / 0) (#21)
    by squeaky on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 03:24:38 PM EST
    If a male who belonged to this group assuming that it is a misogynist temple of sorts, assaulted a random woman, it could be a hate crime.

    And of course there is the case recently posted by TL last week:

    NY Jury Convicts on Manslaughter as Hate Crime in Transgender Killing


    The he-man women haters club (none / 0) (#22)
    by jondee on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 03:34:18 PM EST
    those misogynistic little twerps were probobly the ones behind all shoulder brushing and eye rolling during the primaries.

    But, it easily could (none / 0) (#14)
    by Inspector Gadget on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 02:55:00 PM EST
    if the person you harmed was a member of a group covered under this. You think the people and the prosecutors wouldn't push hard to claim that was the reason?

    Read the comment sections for all the blogs posting today on the topic of the professor who was arrested. People think they know exactly what those involved were thinking.


    the difference is (none / 0) (#17)
    by CST on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 03:18:34 PM EST
    we on a blog can speculate all we want.  In a court of law, it has to be proven.

    I've served on juries (none / 0) (#18)
    by Inspector Gadget on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 03:20:17 PM EST
    They were pretty active with their imaginations on the crimes and the motives.

    Or, jury's (none / 0) (#19)
    by Inspector Gadget on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 03:20:55 PM EST

    Poison Pill? (5.00 / 4) (#3)
    by Peter G on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 12:46:43 PM EST
    Does Sessions perhaps think that adding a death penalty provision to hate crimes legislation serves as a "poison pill," forcing Democrats to vote against something their constituents support, or vice versa, either way?  In other words, is he playing politics with people's lives?  Bear in mind that any death penalty provision in federal law, attached to otherwise routine crimes of violence, primarily affects Native Americans, because of the way that federal criminal jurisdiction works on reservation lands.

    I'd say Sessions et al are (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 01:35:51 PM EST
    pi$$ing on every piece of proposed Democratic legislation, rubbing our noses in it, and seizing the occasion to advance a perversely disingenuous  GOP agenda. As in: 'Oh my yes, since you mentioned it, those hate crimes are so reprehensible, a perpetrator should have to die, like twice, for committing them - so bring it on'.

    BTW, how does "federal criminal jurisdiction work on reservation lands", as per death penalty (shudder) provisions?


    Federal criminal jurisdiction (none / 0) (#32)
    by Peter G on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 08:25:58 PM EST
    The bill we're discussing here is a provision that creates a new federal crime.  All federal laws, to be valid, have to come within Congress's legislative power under the Constitution.  The Constitution does not confer a general criminal jurisdiction on the federal government; all federal crimes have to be tied to some subject over which the federal government, as opposed to the states, has authority.  This law -- assuming the present version is similar to the last one to which TL linked -- would criminalize any and all acts which cause bodily injury to another person because of that person's race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. if one of three federal jurisdictional "hooks" is satisfied: (a) during or because of interstate travel; (b) under circumstances substantially affecting interstate commerce; and (c) in federal territorial jurisdiction.  The last one, imho, is likely to encompass the largest number of instances, and there are a lot more violent crimes committed on Indian reservations than in national parks or post offices, or by civilians on military bases, to cite a few examples of federal territorial jurisdiction locations.  So on this theory, if the death penalty is applied to this new crime (which I hope is not enacted at all), then it will apply disproportionately to Native Americans.

    don't give him any ideas! (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by cpinva on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 01:20:31 PM EST
    (Why not just life plus cancer as a penalty while he's at it?)

    he knows it hasn't a snowball's chance of passing, he's merely playing to the rubes back home. and they'll eat it right up.

    Death Penalty for Thought Crimes (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Carolyn in Baltimore on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 01:34:12 PM EST
    Those hate-mongering fundamentalist preachers better run!

    I agree with Talk Left here (5.00 / 5) (#11)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 02:45:38 PM EST
    I oppose the death penalty in all circumstances.

    I'm mushy on the death penalty (5.00 / 0) (#20)
    by andgarden on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 03:23:22 PM EST
    I'd probably never vote to use it, but it feels like a punishment that ought to be available.

    For what purpose? (none / 0) (#23)
    by CST on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 03:49:43 PM EST
    The problem as I see it with the death penalty is that it serves no purpose except revenge, and the downside is huge.  It does not prevent crime.  It is frequently misused.  There is no taking it back.  It's not like there are a lot of prison breaks.

    Not to mention that I can see no moral way to kill a person in cold blood.  This is not self defense.  This is a person with a steady hand taking the life of someone who is strapped to a chair.


    My feeling is that it must have some (none / 0) (#24)
    by andgarden on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 04:01:30 PM EST
    deterrence value.

    Killing convicts is a nasty business--about as bad as war, which most of your objections also apply to.


    Statistics disagree with you (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by CST on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 04:23:52 PM EST
    And there is a reason I used the term "cold blood".  I hardly think war qualifies.

    Seems to Me (none / 0) (#25)
    by squeaky on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 04:18:55 PM EST
    That any deterrence value, in excess of having to live with the fact that you murdered someone and may have to spend years in jail, seems trivial to me.

    Also most criminals assume that they are not going to get caught.


    Well, like I said, I doubt if I'd ever use it (none / 0) (#26)
    by andgarden on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 04:20:51 PM EST
    but I'm not sure I'm prepared to burry the arrow.

    I was ambivalent for many years (none / 0) (#31)
    by MKS on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 06:37:35 PM EST
    But, I finally came to the conclusion that there was nothing to be gained from executions.  Not deterence.  Not protection of society.  And, there is too great a risk of executing the innocent.

    There is no capital punishment in the vast majority of developed nations.  And none in Latin America....


    And, many don't, while innocent (none / 0) (#28)
    by Inspector Gadget on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 04:36:22 PM EST
    people sit in their cell on death row for them.

    Conference will probably kill the Sessions amd. (none / 0) (#1)
    by andgarden on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 12:20:29 PM EST
    but not the underlying amendment.

    He who is without sin (none / 0) (#29)
    by Saul on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 05:20:47 PM EST
    cast the first stone.  Let's see it's this Session that was on the side of the cross burning KKK before he knew they were smoking marijuana, it was this Session that if I am not mistaken had an assistant that he called BOY and warned him to be careful on how to talk to white folks.


     Who is Session to be talking about hate crime when he has such a history of expressing hate.

    who better, (none / 0) (#33)
    by cpinva on Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 08:57:17 PM EST
    Who is Session to be talking about hate crime when he has such a history of expressing hate.

    then someone with lots of personal, first-hand experience in the subject?

    only lefties can repent (none / 0) (#34)
    by diogenes on Wed Jul 22, 2009 at 01:06:24 AM EST
    You don't throw such vitriol at Bernard Ayers, who was in a bona fide violent organization, because presumably he's "changed".