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US Military Cuts And A Step Towards Equality
October 29, 2009 10:00 AM   Subscribe

Yesterday, US President Obama signed a $680bn military policy bill, which cuts military spending, including $2bn in funding for new F-22 fighter jets. However, the bill also contained the first major piece of federal gay rights legislation, and fulfilled an Obama campaign promise: acts of violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people have now been added to the list of federal hate crimes.
posted by zarq (219 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Additional news links:
* U.S. House passes "hate crime" bill that Bush opposed
* House Passes Expanded Hate Crimes Bill (This is an older article that explains Republican objections to the bill.)
* Two years after son's death, mother finds solace in hate crimes bill
* Obama signs hate crimes bill
* Obama signs 'hate crimes' bill - Christian broadcasters concerned
* Hate Crimes Bill Signed Into Law 11 Years After Matthew Shepard's Death
posted by zarq at 10:01 AM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Woot!
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:02 AM on October 29, 2009


"which cuts military spending"

It's my understanding that this bill increases funding as a whole, but cuts funding for certain programs. This wording is misleading.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 10:03 AM on October 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


The "Christian Broadcasters concerned" article is such a load of horseshit. If I read the article correctly, they are concerned that the law would legitimize persecution of Christians for their beliefs.
posted by lyam at 10:07 AM on October 29, 2009


President Barack Obama salutes as a carry team carries the transfer case containing the remains of Army Sgt. Dale R. Griffin of Terre Haute, Ind., who died in Afghanistan according to the Department of Defense, during a dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Del., Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009.

Anyone still offering odds on whether Obama will send more troops to Afghanistan?
posted by Joe Beese at 10:09 AM on October 29, 2009


It's my understanding that this bill increases funding as a whole, but cuts funding for certain programs. This wording is misleading

Only if your understanding is correct. I'm not saying it isn't but could you link to something that gives more detail ?
posted by Boslowski at 10:10 AM on October 29, 2009


This is wonderful news. However, the FPP is kind of framed strangely. The use of the word "However" at the start of the second sentence creates a tension that doesn't seem to be necessary. You typically frame things as "bad news, however, good news!" or "good news. However, bad news."

So, zarq, are you implying that adding acts of violence against GLBT people to the list of federal hate crimes is bad news?
posted by explosion at 10:10 AM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hate crimes are idiotic. Things that were already illegal become "super-illegal."

Let's punish people for their conduct, not what we suspect is going on inside of their head.
posted by flarbuse at 10:11 AM on October 29, 2009 [11 favorites]


If your beliefs include the practice of "violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people" then I don't want you persecuted. I want you prosecuted.

If your beliefs don't call for practice or inciting violence, you can probably relax.
posted by majick at 10:12 AM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think the "however" means "Thing A, which are probably not that interested in, however also unrelated Thing B, which you probably are"
posted by DU at 10:12 AM on October 29, 2009


But Craig Parshall, chief counsel for National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), discounts that statement, pointing out that such laws in other countries have been used to silence people of faith.

I don't know what it would take to convince Mr. Parshall. If by "silence" he thinks the law will prevent him as a religious American from being a loud-mouthed, ignorant bigot, the law includes explicit wording that reinforces his right as a religious American to be a loud-mouthed, ignorant bigot.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:12 AM on October 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


From the first link:
The act authorizes $550 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget in fiscal 2010 and $130 billion more for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. [550 + 130 = 680. TNW] That compares to a total of $654 billion for both accounts in fiscal 2009.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 10:13 AM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


For anyone not keeping notes, that's a 4% increase.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 10:14 AM on October 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


If I read the article correctly, they are concerned that the law would legitimize persecution of Christians for their beliefs.

which if done violently would itself be a hate crime violation.....
posted by caddis at 10:14 AM on October 29, 2009


Hate crimes are idiotic. Things that were already illegal become "super-illegal."

Let's punish people for their conduct, not what we suspect is going on inside of their head.
posted by flarbuse at 1:11 PM on October 29 [+] [!]
So let's say you're, oh, I dunno, a senator. And let's say that groups of people, oh, let's call them Nazis, have been killing people who identify themselves as Senators. And let's say that being a Senator is important to you. Crucial, even, to your sense of self. Let's say that you haven't necessarily been targeted, but you know that Senators are getting beaten and even killed, and there's been a really strong causal relationship between the violence and disclosure of Senatorship.

The only way that hate crime legislation is "idiotic" is if you can, with a straight face, tell me that you wouldn't be caused duress simply by knowing that people in your demographic group are being targeted.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 10:17 AM on October 29, 2009 [11 favorites]


For anyone not keeping notes, that's a 4% increase.

In real dollars though?
posted by DU at 10:18 AM on October 29, 2009


I sympathize with the sentiment behind this, but I always felt that hate crime laws were sort of pointless.

"President Obama on Wednesday signed a law that makes it a federal crime to assault an individual because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity." Shouldn't it be a federal crime to assault someone regardless of your motivation?
posted by Dumsnill at 10:18 AM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Call me naive, but I find it dazzling that a hate-crime bill that's supported by the majority party and the President, needed to be tagged along with a military spending bill to be pushed over as law. Wow, just wow; in a just world, it would have been the opposite (ie, military spending piggybacking on some emotional law or something)
posted by the cydonian at 10:19 AM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hate crimes are idiotic. Things that were already illegal become "super-illegal."

Let's punish people for their conduct, not what we suspect is going on inside of their head.


flarbuse, a couple of years ago I would have agreed with you. Then I read a bunch of threads on some website (I remember it has a blue front page and screams for a professional white background) and I changed my mind about hate crimes.

I'd link, but I'm on my phone and extremely lazy.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:20 AM on October 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the Republican leader, called it radical social policy. “The idea that we’re going to pass a law that’s going to add further charges to someone based on what they may have been thinking, I think is wrong,” he said.

I look forward to seeing Rep. Boehner lead the charge to overturn all criminal laws relating to degrees of murder, drug possession with intent to distribute, conspiracy, willful tax evasion . . .
posted by brain_drain at 10:20 AM on October 29, 2009 [13 favorites]


I think the "however" means "Thing A, which are probably not that interested in, however also unrelated Thing B, which you probably are"

This. I was trying very, very hard not to editorialize in this FPP. I posted something similar to this on my own blog this morning and briefly mentioned how proud I am this had been signed into law.

BTW, in the JTA link, there's a wonderful quote from the President: "We must stand against crimes that are meant not only to break bones, but to break spirits -- not only to inflict harm, but to instill fear. Because no one in America should ever be afraid to walk down the street holding the hands of the person they love. No one in America should be forced to look over their shoulder because of who they are or because they live with a disability."

And that's pretty much how I feel about it.
posted by zarq at 10:21 AM on October 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


I'm kind of with flarbuse on being uncomfortable with the notion of hate crimes. The metric seems to go against how our justice system generally works.

-Shouting "Fuck you, faggot" is deplorable, but worth 0 years in prison.
-Curb-stomping someone is worth 25-30(?) years for aggravated assault.
-The combination becomes a hate crime and would be bumped to 30-35 years.

For just about any other combination of crimes (e.g. burglary and murder), the sentence becomes the combination of the sentences for each crime individually.

I'm all for using other circumstantial actions, including otherwise free speech to prove intent, and show that crimes were pre-meditated or otherwise intentional, but no further. It seems dangerous and wrong to decide that assault or murder for some reasons are "worse" than for others. A murder in cold blood is horrible, no matter why it is committed.
posted by explosion at 10:21 AM on October 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


...and racketeering...
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:21 AM on October 29, 2009


Let's punish people for their conduct, not what we suspect is going on inside of their head.

This is a poor argument against hate crimes legislation. We routinely try to get at "what we suspect is going on inside of their head" when we try criminals because mens rea is an essential element of most crimes. Murdered your wife? You can bet that what's going on in your head will be brought up at trial, likely by the defense when they try to show that you were upset about her affairs.
posted by fatbird at 10:21 AM on October 29, 2009 [15 favorites]


In real dollars though?
posted by DU at 1:18 PM on October 29 [+] [!]
Well, if the dollar has deflated (which it may well have due to a contraction in the economy and a demand for liquidity, I don't know because I'm not an economist), then that 4% could be larger in real dollars. Can anyone who is actually informed weigh in?
posted by TheNewWazoo at 10:21 AM on October 29, 2009


For anyone not keeping notes, that's a 4% increase.

Crap! My apologies. I misread the article.

Thanks for the correction. I do appreciate it.
posted by zarq at 10:22 AM on October 29, 2009


Shouldn't it be a federal crime to assault someone regardless of your motivation?
posted by Dumsnill at 1:18 PM on October 29 [+] [!]


Assault is a crime against an individual. Hate crimes are crimes against a demographic.
posted by shoebox at 10:22 AM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hate crimes are idiotic. Things that were already illegal become "super-illegal."

There are two solid arguments in favour of hate crime legislation like this.

Random violence could happen to almost anyone, but violence that targets an individual because of their race, sexuality, gender identity and other attributes doesn't just damage that individual, it increases fear and limits the movements of others in the same group who may rightfully fear that they are also walking targets.

Even more importantly, legislation like this increases the likelihood that such crimes will be investigated and prosecuted because there is now a federal mandate to act. Local law enforcement may sometimes share the prejudices of the criminals and may drag their feet, but this legislation means that the feds can get involved. A victim of random violence has a fairly good chance that local law enforcement is on their side. A member of one of the groups mentioned may have a lesser chance, and they need the initiative from the feds. If I recall correctly, the murder of those civil rights workers in the 60s weren't properly prosecuted until the FBI got involved.
posted by maudlin at 10:23 AM on October 29, 2009 [55 favorites]


Actually, I withdraw my previous comment. I can see how hate crime laws can be a way for a society to say "No, we REALLY don't accept this attitude, especially when it leads to assault."
posted by Dumsnill at 10:24 AM on October 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Let's punish people for their conduct, not what we suspect is going on inside of their head.

Which is why sentences for involuntary manslaughter should be exactly the same as sentences for first degree murder.
posted by EarBucket at 10:25 AM on October 29, 2009 [19 favorites]


If I read the article correctly, they are concerned that the law would legitimize persecution of Christians for their beliefs.

Well, considering that they've managed to convince the Supreme Court that they are afraid for their lives if they have their support for anti-gay causes made public , because of the long history of gay-on-straight violence in this country (HAMBURGER), I am not surprised that they feel as though they might be persecuted for their beliefs.

The agenda of the Xianists to create a theocracy in the US, where their morality and beliefs are instilled as law and all those who seek to live outside that or who seek to squelch their progress are persecuted AND prosecuted becomes more clear and evident every day.
posted by hippybear at 10:25 AM on October 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


explosion: I'm all for using other circumstantial actions, including otherwise free speech to prove intent, and show that crimes were pre-meditated or otherwise intentional, but no further. It seems dangerous and wrong to decide that assault or murder for some reasons are "worse" than for others. A murder in cold blood is horrible, no matter why it is committed.

Except that we do when we call pre-meditated and cold-blooded murder to be more horrible than mere manslaughter.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:25 AM on October 29, 2009


Beating up John Doe on the street is bad and horrible. But beating up John Doe is just that.

Beating up a guy outside of a gay bar is bad and horrible. But is sends a message to all GLBT people: you are not welcome here, you are not people, we are coming for you.

Hate Crime laws tells the targeted group: no, you are welcome here, you are people, and we are coming after the people who violently say otherwise.

That is why this is so important to GLBT people.
posted by munchingzombie at 10:27 AM on October 29, 2009 [21 favorites]


Random violence could happen to almost anyone, but violence that targets an individual because of their race, sexuality, gender identity and other attributes doesn't just damage that individual, it increases fear and limits the movements of others in the same group who may rightfully fear that they are also walking targets.

Don't we already have laws against terrorizing a community? Throwing rocks through a storefront is vandalism, as is throwing rocks through a mosque or synagogue's windows. However, if it's shown that it was meant to intimidate and terrorize the community, it can be prosecuted further than petty vandalism. It doesn't have to be specifically a "hate crime."

I do agree with your latter point about forcing local enforcement to act by giving FBI power to move in if it's not dealt with. That's a sad state of affairs that makes me reluctantly agree with the necessity of the laws, even if I don't agree with them ideologically.
posted by explosion at 10:27 AM on October 29, 2009


Which is why sentences for involuntary manslaughter should be exactly the same as sentences for first degree murder.

Exactly.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:28 AM on October 29, 2009


flarbuse: Hate crimes are idiotic. Things that were already illegal become "super-illegal."

Let's punish people for their conduct, not what we suspect is going on inside of their head.


Hate crime legislation punishes people for their conduct, not for what is going on inside of their head. The conduct in question is terrorism. Hate crime legislation ensures that terrorists are punished for being terrorists, not merely for being thugs.

And that aside, the whole oh-noes-hate-crimes-punish-thought-crimes thing is idiotic. Of course what is going on in someone's head when they commit a crime is relevant to the sentence, otherwise there would be no difference between first-degree murder and involuntary homicide.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:30 AM on October 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


The opposition to hate crimes legislation is idiotic. If things are already illegal why not make them super-illegal?

I mean, since when do we care about people who run around beating people up and/or killing them?

Even if you don't think that hate crime laws are logical, or will actually accomplish anything, why would you be opposed? Why would anyone care so much about the violent criminals who are going to have to deal with the fallout?

--

Other then that, Andrew Sullivan is unhappy, thinking this does nothing for actual gay rights:
You have to have a federal hate crime law in order to recognize the existence of gay married couples? Or in order to stop the government persecuting servicemembers? How on earth did the civil rights movement for African-American equality unfold all the way to inter-racial marriage without a single hate crimes provision? I think Birch was saying: this was the easiest get, and thereby gets the gays marked in federal law as a protected victim class. Once gays are turned legally into victims, more laws can be passed enshrining that status.

The trouble is: victims are not servicemembers or married couples. Marriage and military service do require real things from gay citizens, real responsibilties and real equality. Victim laws merely require things from government. And that's why the hate crimes fixation makes sense from the HRC point of view. The campaign was a brilliant decades-long marketing measure to provide HRC with funding, while giving Democratic party officials an alibi for not tackling the actual question of equality.
posted by delmoi at 10:30 AM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


explosion: Don't we already have laws against terrorizing a community? Throwing rocks through a storefront is vandalism, as is throwing rocks through a mosque or synagogue's windows. However, if it's shown that it was meant to intimidate and terrorize the community, it can be prosecuted further than petty vandalism. It doesn't have to be specifically a "hate crime."

Pardon, but without the bias crime legislation that allows for prosecutors to collect and present evidence that a crime was intended to target, intimidate, and terrorize a community, you have no grounds to do that.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:31 AM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Other then that, Andrew Sullivan is unhappy, thinking this does nothing for actual gay rights:

In some ways, he is correct. It doesn't expand gay rights at all. What it does is ensure that those who are working explicitly to dehumanize gays and deny them their rights by treating them as punching bags or making them into a persecuted class by physically assaulting them will be slapped down for their bigotry.
posted by hippybear at 10:34 AM on October 29, 2009


So what if I beat up someone outside of a bar because, hey, I want his money? Oh, and it happens to be a gay bar. We differentiate this how from an attempt to intimidate an entire community?
posted by adipocere at 10:34 AM on October 29, 2009


Don't we already have laws against terrorizing a community?

Yes. They are called "hate crime laws".

Throwing rocks through a storefront is vandalism, as is throwing rocks through a mosque or synagogue's windows. However, if it's shown that it was meant to intimidate and terrorize the community, it can be prosecuted further than petty vandalism. It doesn't have to be specifically a "hate crime.

This legislation will make it easier to further prosecute crimes aimed at a specific community. It seems like you might just have a problem with the phrase "hate crime", not the ideas behind why that kind of law is sadly necessary.
posted by dubold at 10:36 AM on October 29, 2009


It's extremely fucking disturbing that we even have to tell people that they can't beat and murder other people for having sex with/falling in love with each other. Yay! and all, but jesus... 2009? Really? Such a progressive nation, the USA. That was so cowboy.
posted by heyho at 10:36 AM on October 29, 2009


delmoi: Andrew Sullivan can fuck off on this in my opinion.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:36 AM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hate crimes are idiotic. Things that were already illegal become "super-illegal."

Here we go again. Hate crime legislation and prosecution of hate crimes are nothing new.

The legislation signed into law yesterday is the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Bill (aka the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd, Jr. Hates Crimes Prevention Bill). It extends hate crimes legislation that has been in place since 1969.

The principal changes to the existing 1969 law:
Gender, disability and sexual orientation are now additional protected classifications [added to those classes already covered -- race, color, religion or national origin].

The six federally protected activities enumerated in the 1969 law have been deleted. A victim is protected by the law at all times, not just when they were doing specific activities, like being at work, voting, or attending a public school.

The scope of the law includes:

Both men and women who are now protected if the assault or threat of assault was gender-based.

Quadriplegics, paraplegics, and persons who are blind, deaf etc. are protected from attacks from individuals because of their disability.

Heterosexuals, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals are all protected from crimes motivated by hatred of sexual orientation.
Regarding the specious 'free speech/thought crime' argument:
"Social and religious conservatives generally oppose the bill. Many ignore the protections that the bill would give to women, men, the disabled, and heterosexuals. They appear to be concerned almost exclusively with protections given to persons of one sexual orientation: homosexuals. They are concerned that a person who verbally attacks gays or lesbians could be charged under the act if any violent or criminal act resulted from the speech. This appears to be a misinterpretation of the bill, because it could only be applied to a person who has actually committed a crime. Speeches attacking gays and lesbians are not a criminal behavior; they are protected speech under the First Amendment."*

Also -- HR 1592 contains a 'Rule of Construction' which specifically provides that "Nothing in this Act...shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by the free speech or free exercise clauses of, the First Amendment to the Constitution."
We are all now protected from crimes motivated by hate. Whites, blacks, Jews, Christians, gay, straight, able-bodied, handicapped, etc.

Furthermore, the law is intended to "give federal authorities greater ability to engage in hate crimes investigations that local authorities choose not to pursue" and provides federal funding to help state and local agencies pay for investigating and prosecuting hate crimes.

Regarding hate crimes:
""Every act of violence is tragic and harmful in its consequences, but not all crime is based on hate. A hate crime or bias motivated crime occurs when the perpetrator of the crime intentionally selects the victim because of who the victim is. A bias motivated crime affects not only the victim and their family but an entire community or category of people and their families. A study funded by the Bureau of Justice Statistics released September 2000, shows that 85 percent of law enforcement officials surveyed recognize bias motivated violence to be more serious than similar crimes not motivated by bias.

Hate crimes are destructive and divisive. A random act of violence resulting in injury or even death is a tragic event that devastates the lives of the victim and their family, but the intentional selection and beating or murder of an individual because of who they are terrorizes an entire community and sometimes the nation. For example, it is easy to recognize the difference between check-kiting and a cross burning; or the arson of an office building versus the intentional torching of a church or synagogue. The church or synagogue burning has a profound impact on the congregation, the faith community, the greater community, and the nation."*

"According to FBI statistics, of the over 113,000 hate crimes since 1991, 55% were motivated by racial bias, 17% by religious bias, 14% sexual orientation bias, 14% ethnicity bias, and 1% disability bias.

The [Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention -- aka Matthew Shepard] Act is supported by thirty-one state Attorneys General and over 210 national law enforcement, professional, education, civil rights, religious, and civic organizations, including the AFL-CIO, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the NAACP. A November 2001 poll indicated that 73% of Americans favor hate-crime legislation covering sexual orientation."*
posted by ericb at 10:37 AM on October 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


So what if I beat up someone outside of a bar because, hey, I want his money? Oh, and it happens to be a gay bar. We differentiate this how from an attempt to intimidate an entire community?

it depends on the circumstances, and I'm guessing the burden of proof is - as always - on the prosecution
posted by Think_Long at 10:38 AM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


We routinely try to get at "what we suspect is going on inside of their head" when we try criminals because mens rea is an essential element of most crimes. Murdered your wife? You can bet that what's going on in your head will be brought up at trial, likely by the defense when they try to show that you were upset about her affairs.

Yes, but at broad levels. It shouldn't be worse to assault someone solely because they are gay than to assault someone solely because you want their sneakers. Malicious murder is malicious murder. This adds a thoughtcrime element to it.

I have the same problem with additional penalties for killing a law enforcement officer. If we're all created equal, why is it worse to harm certain people? Is a narcissist who thinks my wallet is worth my life better than a narcissist who thinks the world would be better off without me were I gay? I don't think one should be more acceptable than the other.

I'm even a little uncomfortable stating my opinion here, because I don't want anyone to think for a second that I believe that violence against people based on their sexual preferences is ever acceptable. I don't even think disliking people based on their sexual preference is acceptable.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:38 AM on October 29, 2009


So what if I beat up someone outside of a bar because, hey, I want his money? Oh, and it happens to be a gay bar. We differentiate this how from an attempt to intimidate an entire community?

In an actual crime, as opposed to a theoretical question on the internet, there would probably be some more details that prosecutors would use to develop their case.
posted by dubold at 10:39 AM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


adipocere: So what if I beat up someone outside of a bar because, hey, I want his money? Oh, and it happens to be a gay bar. We differentiate this how from an attempt to intimidate an entire community?

The prosecution would need to present a case beyond mere coincidental location that the crime was motivated by bias.

Mayor Curley: It shouldn't be worse to assault someone solely because they are gay than to assault someone solely because you want their sneakers.

Of course assault and battery in the commission of another crime is already eligible for sentence enhancement.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:42 AM on October 29, 2009


So what if I beat up someone outside of a bar because, hey, I want his money? Oh, and it happens to be a gay bar. We differentiate this how from an attempt to intimidate an entire community?

Shame on you for mugging people in the first place.

But any mugger who was a real professional and not just some crackfiend would probably know better than to pick locations where his actions might be misconstrued as hate crimes. He would also likely avoid beating people up outside of synagogues or mosques or feminist bookstores.

Furthermore, if the defense can bring forward witnesses which show that you were NOT, in fact, shouting "death to all faggots" while beating the man, and that as soon as your victim was down you grabbed his wallet and ran rather than continuing to beat him has he lay unconscious and bleeding, that might help your case somewhat.

In other words... Seriously??? That's your objection? That someone might be accidentally tried under a hate crime bill who was just a simple mugger? Any defense attorney worth his salt would be telling that person to take the plea bargain rather than submit to that. It's a straw man, albeit one wielding a baseball bat in the wrong place.
posted by hippybear at 10:47 AM on October 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


I heard an anti-defamation guy on NPR saying this was the first non-negative recognition of transgendered people in law, so that alone is a big positive. One small step and all that, but still, good.
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:47 AM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Other then that, Andrew Sullivan is unhappy, thinking this does nothing for actual gay rights

I could be wrong, but I tend to think his annoyance is less about whether this is effective/needed legislation and more about the underlying HRC's political and financial motivations and telling lack of efforts towards fighting for gay marriage and a repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". After all, the HRC has been hypocritical about their support for hate crimes protections in the past.
posted by zarq at 10:47 AM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


It shouldn't be worse to assault someone solely because they are gay than to assault someone solely because you want their sneakers. Malicious murder is malicious murder. This adds a thoughtcrime element to it.

Isn't "malicious" the wrong word to use if you're not wanting to associate motives to a crime?

I do agree with your point about killing policemen, however. It shouldn't be any more of a crime to kill them than to kill others. Unless you're killing cops in order to intimidate them as a class, in which case it turns into a hate crime.
posted by hippybear at 10:49 AM on October 29, 2009


On hate crimes:

If you walk in on somebody in bed with your spouse and murder them in a fit of rage, that's bad, and you'll have to go to jail for a while, because you have shown that under duress you are capable of extreme violence.

If you really hate your coworkwer and carefully plot their demise, that's even worse, because you weren't acting in a fit of passion. You go to jail for even longer. Because you've shown that under normal circumstances you are capable of extreme violence against a particular target.

If you go out and commit extreme violence against somebody you don't know because of demographic characteristics, then you have not only shown that you capable of such violence under normal circumstances, but that the target of said violence is a large group of people, and therefore you are more likely to do the same. Even more jail time for you.

Plus, as has been mentioned, it allocates resources for the feds to get involved. I know if I were a gay kid that got beaten nearly to death in smalltown Alabama, I'd much prefer to have the feds intervene to prevent the job from getting finished than the local policeforce.
posted by HotPants at 10:49 AM on October 29, 2009 [28 favorites]


So what if I beat up someone outside of a bar because, hey, I want his money? Oh, and it happens to be a gay bar. We differentiate this how from an attempt to intimidate an entire community?

The court finds twelve people from your local community and puts them on a special board known as a "jury." Then, the prosecutor presents evidence that suggests you were trying to intimidate the gay community, and your lawyer tries to poke holes in that evidence. If the prosecutor can convince all twelve jurors that you're guilty, you go to prison. Simple enough, yeah?
posted by EarBucket at 10:50 AM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


For those who think that hate crime legislation amounts to prosecution of people's thoughts: Do you think that those who burn crosses on black people's lawns should only be charged with arson?
posted by desjardins at 10:50 AM on October 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


I heard an anti-defamation guy on NPR saying this was the first non-negative recognition of transgendered people in law, so that alone is a big positive. One small step and all that, but still, good.

Perhaps on a Federal level, but not a local one. Several communities throughout the US have legislated gender-neutral bathrooms for the transgendered.
posted by zarq at 10:53 AM on October 29, 2009


The only way that hate crime legislation is "idiotic" is if you can, with a straight face, tell me that you wouldn't be caused duress simply by knowing that people in your demographic group are being targeted.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 1:17 PM on October 29


You're confused. In what way will hate crimes deter people from targeting a group for violence when laws against violent crime fail as a deterrent? Just because a law makes something illegal, it doesn't stop that thing from happening.

Secondly, hate crimes require an actual crime. It remains perfectly legal to say, very publicly and vocally, that such and such a group is evil, subhuman, should be dead, etc.

There are many hate crimes laws on the books. They have not in any way reduced the amount of hate. Hate crimes are pointless because they don't alter the social dynamic in any positive way. Furthermore, they are counterproductive in that they imply that violent crimes against an individual because they are a member of a protected group are somehow worse than the same violent crimes against the same individual because they are a member of a group that the law does not designate as special.

Furthermore, consider that hate crimes only target certain kinds of hate. Consider the following example with respect to racism:

A white man who attacks, robs and kills an old black woman because she is black is guilty of a hate crime. A black man who attacks, robs, and kills an old white woman because he assumes old white ladies are easy targets for a robbery is not guilty of a hate crime. Both men are racist. But only the former has committed a hate crime. Does this seem reasonable to you?
posted by Pastabagel at 10:54 AM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Recovery ends US recession

No thanks to that lazy bum!
posted by Artw at 10:55 AM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Andrew Sullivan has done worse than nothing for gay rights. For many years now, he has been part of a political campaign to eliminate gay rights enshrined in the Constitution. If I were him, perhaps I would be asking forgiveness from the GLBT community instead of trying to speak as a legitimate representative of it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:55 AM on October 29, 2009


Pastabagel: You are aware that the courts have successfully upheld the conviction of black defendants under hate crime laws given ample evidence that white victims were specifically selected on the basis of race?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:57 AM on October 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


A black man who attacks, robs, and kills an old white woman because he assumes old white ladies are easy targets for a robbery is not guilty of a hate crime.

If the fact that she was white (versus old black women) played into that calculus he would be guilty. Around here we had a group of thieves who targeted Indian women on the theory that they often stored gold jewelry at home. They were charged under the state hate crimes law in addition to the other charges.
posted by caddis at 10:58 AM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


So what if I beat up someone outside of a bar because, hey, I want his money? Oh, and it happens to be a gay bar. We differentiate this how from an attempt to intimidate an entire community?

As with sexual assaults, this legislation is intended to prevent bigotry, intimidation and organized violence from being inflicted by a privileged class against another, less privileged one. It allows the federal government to step in and investigate if the local authorities refuse to act. This does not mean there will be a presumption of guilt. That's not how our system works.
posted by zarq at 10:58 AM on October 29, 2009


hate crimes require an actual crime. It remains perfectly legal to say, very publicly and vocally, that such and such a group is evil, subhuman, should be dead, etc.

Yes. For example, this is not a hate crime. (Although it is reprehensible.)
posted by hippybear at 10:59 AM on October 29, 2009


"A hate crime or bias motivated crime occurs when the perpetrator of the crime intentionally selects the victim because of who the victim is."

But isn't that always the case? If someone kills their wife because... it's their wife, is that a hate crime? It appears that we would need hate crime legislation to cover every single group. From wives to nerds to people wearing panda bear suits.

I really wish we could live in a country where smart politicians could say what they meant instead of having to enact laws in order to prove a point. Right wing pundits aren't afraid to say "we hate gays", so why is Obama so afraid to say "that's fucking stupid"? Is he not allowed to have an opinion about something not legislated by law?
posted by symbollocks at 11:02 AM on October 29, 2009


So, in other words, the prosecution will tack on the charge as a special sauce and it's up to you to hope that people remember "innocent until proven guilty." Call me cynical, but the way the PATRIOT Act, designed to fight terrorists, has been used instead on our ongoing War on Some Drugs, I have a strong feeling that, without a solid standard of evidence developed behind it, we'll see the usual abuses start up. See what happened with the RICO Act in the 1980's.

I've always been uncomfortable with laws wherein the state of mind counts against the defendant, and neither have I been comfortable with the admission of someone else's emotional state as evidence. How do we really know that you killed someone in cold blood, rather than, say, in a fit of rage? There's at least some kind of evidence to prove it, like an insurance policy being taken out, but saying, "I feel terrorized" seems insufficient. On the other hand, we're just not liable to find Billy Joe's PowerPoint presentation "My Master Plan to Intimidate the GBLT Community" anywhere on his PC. Developing some kind of standard here seems problematic.

Call me crazy, but how about equitable enforcement of existing laws before we go around making new ones? We don't see much of that, and instead the police do things like hand back a teenager to Jeff Dahmer, purely on the basis that they're going to let the gay community handle their own problems.
posted by adipocere at 11:05 AM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


If someone kills their wife because... it's their wife, is that a hate crime?

If "Their Wife" is a class of people making up a significant minority population of the country, sure. If that murder is meant to send a message to all of Their Wives that they can expect similar threats against their safety if they continue to try to live their lives freely and openly within the community, absolutely. If they hope that, by the murder of that one representative of the group of Their Wives, they will somehow cleanse their small bubble of reality from every having to confront any of that entire class of people again, then yes.

If you're putting up arguments which make no sense in the context of the discussion in order to make yourself feel better about your point, you need to try harder to add to the conversation and not just generate noise.
posted by hippybear at 11:06 AM on October 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


You're confused. In what way will hate crimes deter people from targeting a group for violence when laws against violent crime fail as a deterrent? Just because a law makes something illegal, it doesn't stop that thing from happening.

Oh well, then let's just toss all the laws out the window, if the threat of punishment isn't an effective deterrent, eh?

Secondly, hate crimes require an actual crime. It remains perfectly legal to say, very publicly and vocally, that such and such a group is evil, subhuman, should be dead, etc.

And? This legislation penalizes violent acts perpetrated with the intent to terrorize (I like that phrasing, btw, thank you to whomever said it upthread) a demographic group. What's your point?

As to the rest, on preview, see KirkJobSluder's comment.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 11:07 AM on October 29, 2009


So what if I beat up someone outside of a bar because, hey, I want his money? Oh, and it happens to be a gay bar. We differentiate this how from an attempt to intimidate an entire community?
posted by adipocere at 10:34 AM on October 29


hey just a heads-up violent crimes are investigated in order to find out what happened and why

for isntance if you get punched in the head and they take your money and run it is probably just a simple mugging

but if you get pucnhed in the head and beaten to death while being called a faggot and then they take your money it is probably not a simple mugging

if u have other questions please let me know :)
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:07 AM on October 29, 2009 [14 favorites]


TheNewWazoo: For anyone not keeping notes, that's a 4% increase [in the defense budget].

Yeah, but -- from the WaPo article in the OP: Congress did eliminate $2 billion for new F-22 fighter jets, and billions more for a new presidential helicopter, an airborne laser and the Future Combat Systems, a space-age Army initiative to link sensors, soldiers, and information systems with unmanned and manned vehicles.

Obama got more defense cuts than any other president in decades. Most of the increases went to making life better for soldiers: a 3.4% pay raise, increasing the number of troops (so they aren't called back for 3rd and 4th tours after brief rests), money for caretakers for severely wounded troops, and making sure that soldiers with large families earn at least 130% of the poverty line. These seem like pretty good priorities. Soldiers were horribly neglected under Bush.
posted by msalt at 11:11 AM on October 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


To use a real-life example, the prosecution of the murder of Angie Zapata under state hate crime laws included 1) evidence that her transgender status was well-known by people around her and openly discussed by her, 2) evidence that Andrade attended a court session in which Zapata was identified by her birth name and 3) evidence that Andrade bragged about the murder and his reasons for killing Zapata.

All of this was to counter the defense's narrative that gawsh gee, Andrade was just a clueless schumck who was duped by a deceptive tranny into onto a spontaneous act of violence that included a coup de gras with a weapon from across the room.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:12 AM on October 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Call me crazy, but how about equitable enforcement of existing laws before we go around making new ones?

This was an existing law, which has now been modified to expand the classes protected, which include heterosexuals and men amongst them. This is not an exclusively "gay thing".

We don't see much of that, and instead the police do things like hand back a teenager to Jeff Dahmer, purely on the basis that they're going to let the gay community handle their own problems.

Seriously? Do you have a citation for this incident? Even the most homophobic places I've lived in, the cops have not had a "let the queers handle their own matters" attitude about actual crimes occurring within their jurisdiction. They're always more than happy to be able to display their authority and force.
posted by hippybear at 11:13 AM on October 29, 2009


Hate crimes should be super-illegal. Why is somebody even makign the case that they shouldn't be?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:15 AM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Obama got more defense cuts than any other president in decades.

Yeah, a -4% cut. Mission accomplished.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 11:15 AM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seriously? Do you have a citation for this incident?

For what it's worth, this actually happened. (Google "Konerak Sinthasomphone.") That doesn't mean it's reasonable to draw sweeping conclusions about the police, the gay community, or hate crimes legislation from this one incident, but it's a true story.
posted by EarBucket at 11:17 AM on October 29, 2009


really, i've never understood the need for the addition of "hate crime'. it's already a crime. isn't that enough/ and i'm a homo so i'm especially interested.
posted by billybobtoo at 11:19 AM on October 29, 2009


For what it's worth, this actually happened. (Google "Konerak Sinthasomphone.")

I lived in Milwaukee at the time and was working at the daily paper. This most definitely happened.
posted by desjardins at 11:20 AM on October 29, 2009


"We must stand against crimes that are meant not only to break bones, but to break spirits -- not only to inflict harm, but to instill fear. Because no one in America should ever be afraid to walk down the street holding the hands of the person they love. No one in America should be forced to look over their shoulder because of who they are or because they live with a disability."

Is he referring to GLBT people as having a disability or referring to handicap hate crimes protection already covered?


I do share adipocere's qualms about Prosecutor's adding on charges where not appropriate in order to increase their conviction record, but feel that that problem is inherent in the promotional system of the justice department which should also be addressed.

On the other hand, we're just not liable to find Billy Joe's PowerPoint presentation "My Master Plan to Intimidate the GBLT Community" anywhere on his PC.
Thanks to the pervasiveness of web publishing we might.
posted by edbles at 11:21 AM on October 29, 2009


Yeah, a -4% cut. Mission accomplished.

At this point I'm wondeirng if the "Obama hasn't done anything" meme is so strong I'm wondering if the response to the Healthcare bill passing with public option would be "Yeah? So what? Why didn't he do it sooner?"
posted by Artw at 11:22 AM on October 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


If there wasn't such a long history of specifics groups of people being attacked and intimidated by the majority in America, then there wouldn't be a need for these laws, ok?

You've had plenty of time to clean up your act and do the right thing, such as not only not attacking or intimidating homosexuals, but working to stop any of your peers from doing so and everyone had the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. You didn't do that, so now a government of, by and for the people has taken up the matter to police your sorry ass.

Just think, if you had done something besides pistol whip, torture, tie to a fence and leave for dead another human being, this law probably wouldn't have been passed.

Actions have consequences, so reap what you've fucking sowed
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:22 AM on October 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


Is he referring to GLBT people as having a disability or referring to handicap hate crimes protection already covered?

Neither.

"The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act would expand the federal definition of hate crimes to include those motivated by gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability. It also will allow federal authorities to pursue hate-crimes cases when local authorities are either unable or unwilling to do so."
posted by zarq at 11:26 AM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seriously, though, how is the "it's punishing people for what they think!" meme getting passed around? It demonstrates such an ignorance of the law, which has always factored in intent, as to be breathtaking, and minimizes the actual harm done by hate crimes to just being a regular sort of crime that people do (especially when people declare "all crimes are hate crimes'; no they aren't). It's illogical, reductivist, and ignores both history and actual evidence -- I mean, honestly, are people really going to claim that lynching somebody is exactly the same crime and has exactly the same social effect as killing somebody in a bar fight? That bombing an African American church is identical to burning down a house for insurance money? The painting a swastika on a synagogue is identical to drawing a mustache on an ad on a public kiosk?

Therew are such a thing as hate crimes, and they are different than crimes that are not hate crimes, and that difference isn't merely that somebody had a mean thought in their head that shouldn't be punished. They are worse than regular crimes, because their effect is to cumulatively terrorize people based on ethnicity or religion or class or gender or sexuality, and that means they effect a larger group than a crime committed against one individual, and that is why they should be prosecuted as a worse crime, and this is so self evident that I don't know why we have to have this discussion every time the subject comes up.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:29 AM on October 29, 2009 [17 favorites]


Wikipedia has more.
posted by zarq at 11:30 AM on October 29, 2009


They have not in any way reduced the amount of hate.

Not only is this not the measure of hate crime legislation, it's not really the measure of any legislation. You may as well condemn fraud legislation because it has not in any way reduced the amount of greed.

Hate crimes are pointless because they don't alter the social dynamic in any positive way.

Hate crime legislation tells the minority group that the majority explicitly condemns criminal action against them; that seems positive, as messages go.

Furthermore, they are counterproductive in that they imply that violent crimes against an individual because they are a member of a protected group are somehow worse than the same violent crimes against the same individual because they are a member of a group that the law does not designate as special.

I think it is worse, but I also believe in privilege and institutional racism/sexism/homophobia/etc, so there's that. One of the ways in which society can attempt to redress its internal imbalance is through such legislation. That seems pretty productive.

A white man who attacks, robs and kills an old black woman because she is black is guilty of a hate crime. A black man who attacks, robs, and kills an old white woman because he assumes old white ladies are easy targets for a robbery is not guilty of a hate crime. Both men are racist. But only the former has committed a hate crime. Does this seem reasonable to you?

To answer your question first: it's funny how we know a lot more about what that second guy thinks than the first guy, but sure, I do think that's reasonable.

So here's the thing: they're both going to jail, right? For like 30+ years or more depending on jurisdiction? They're both murderers, right?

So really, we're arguing over whether it's right for a murderer to go to jail for 30 years or 40 years, and it's remarkable how often the tough-on-crime people go soft on sentences in this specific instance. Here's my stance: hate crimes are terrorism, and terrorist crimes deserve larger penalties than "regular old" crimes, although they're both still crimes and they're both still bad.

And anyway, don't worry; if history is any judge, the black guy's going away for life while the white guy will be out in 5-10 years, so all the racists get what they deserve from an impartial society.
posted by Errant at 11:38 AM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Seriously? Do you have a citation for this incident?

For what it's worth, this actually happened. (Google "Konerak Sinthasomphone.")


Goodness. I had no idea. I tend not to actually study serial killers, overall.

I guess it's good that in the nearly 20 years since that incident we've grown a bit as a society, and this is much less likely to happen now. Yay for social progress!
posted by hippybear at 11:40 AM on October 29, 2009


Hate crimes are idiotic. Things that were already illegal become "super-illegal."
The distinction between manslaughter and first degree murder is idiotic. Something that's illegal becomes "super-illegal."
posted by verb at 11:46 AM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's strange how conservatives can be so concerned with the rights of murderers, rapists and thugs when it suits them. You know what, they're right. We can never truly know what someone else is thinking or feeling, therefore we need to put Dick Cheney on trial for attempted murder. Sure, he said shooting his friend in the face was an accident, but how could we ever know that for certain? We can't look inside his head. Fuzzy concepts like intent and state of mind must never play a part in justice. The one thing we do know is that he pulled the trigger and since he's already admitted that, it should be a short, but fair, trial. And then we can hang the bastard.
posted by stavrogin at 11:47 AM on October 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


Even if you don't think that hate crime laws are logical, or will actually accomplish anything, why would you be opposed?

Because legislating against what people believe violates every principle of American democracy that has ever existed.
posted by jock@law at 11:51 AM on October 29, 2009


Because legislating against what people believe violates every principle of American democracy that has ever existed.

Thankfully, that's not what this does at all.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:52 AM on October 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


Thankfully, that's not what this does at all.

We are men of action. Lying does not become us.
posted by jock@law at 12:03 PM on October 29, 2009


We are men of action. Lying does not become us.

Then the answer is for you to stop lying.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:06 PM on October 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


I am going to assume you are not being deliberate in mischaracterizing the law. It does not criminalize belief. It criminalizes action, and factors in intent. A hate crime is a hate crime because it deliberately targets somebody on the basis of race, sex, etc. That distinguishes it from other crimes, in the same way that murder one is distinguished from murder two by intent, and that quality of intent modifies the deverity of the crime. This is all well-established and has enormous legal precedent, and, if you disagree, go ahead and drag it before the supreme court and see if they share your opinion. But please don't say that it is people's thoughts that are being regulated here. It isn't. It really, really isn't, and that discussion is either ignorant or wilfully disingenuous.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:07 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


That means nothing wrt to this legislation.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:07 PM on October 29, 2009


severity, rather.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:08 PM on October 29, 2009


That was at jock.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:08 PM on October 29, 2009


I believe that God wants me to cock-punch Republicans. Why does the law discriminate against my belief?
posted by verb at 12:09 PM on October 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


The courts have previously addressed at length whether hate crimes laws criminalize speech and belief, and the answer is a clear "no."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:12 PM on October 29, 2009


And we keep raising the subject of intent in regard to murder, but here's a brief list of where intent also factors into the law: Assault and Battery, conversion of property, false arrest, False Imprisonment, Fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, Trespass, and larceny. Nobody ever characterizes the use of intent here as somehow being a violation of our fundamental right to think what we want to think.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:14 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Because legislating against what people believe violates every principle of American democracy that has ever existed.

We prosecute people all the time on the basis of what they believe.

For example, "Bitch had it coming" is a belief. On the other hand, "Bitch was going to kill me" is also a belief. Depending on which of these beliefs you hold when stabbing your lover in the back, you could be tried under completely different legal standards.

It's bullshit, plain and simple, that prosecuting people based on their beliefs is a violation of every blah, blah, blah...

Hell, it's strictly on the basis of the defendant's beliefs that we consider most crimes as crimes, as delusional people operating with beliefs clearly out of touch with consensus reality have always been granted a special limited culpability under the law for their actions. Believe crazy enough shit, you get a ticket to the state mental institution instead of the chair. Believe shit that isn't quite crazy enough, or that actually makes a kind of rational sense, then good luck, pal.

That comment surely encapsulates some nice sounding, pseudo-patriotic nonsense all right, but beyond that, I'm not sure it does anything else.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:15 PM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


And what Astro Zombie said. It's probably lazy, but I'm more or less equating intent and belief, as I think others here are, too.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:16 PM on October 29, 2009


Or, say, terrorism as another example where intent matters. You are more than welcome to your political beliefs. You can write about your political beliefs at length. You can meet with like-minded people regarding your political beliefs. You can decorate your house in accordance with your political beliefs.

But once you start making truck bombs or making threats against transportation services, then those acts trigger a chain of potential legal consequences.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:21 PM on October 29, 2009


more or less equating intent and belief

In non-hate-crime crimes, those things are likely separate. In hate crimes, they seem to meld into one, so your equation is not unfounded.
posted by hippybear at 12:25 PM on October 29, 2009


Because legislating against what people believe violates every principle of American democracy that has ever existed.

That's silly. You're free to believe that homosexuals are abominations, that they're disgusting, or that Jesus cries every time two of them have sex. You're free to have all sorts of ridiculous, offensive beliefs. What you're not free to do is go out and assault or kill homosexuals because you believe that they're abominations, that they're disgusting, or that Jesus cries every time two of them have sex.

Is the distinction really that hard to understand?
posted by EarBucket at 12:33 PM on October 29, 2009


Here's my stance: hate crimes are terrorism, and terrorist crimes deserve larger penalties than "regular old" crimes, although they're both still crimes and they're both still bad.

Really, "terrorism"? Are you sure you want to sling that word around? Are G8 riots terrorism? Were the LA riots after the Rodney King trial terrorism?

These acts are not acts of terrorism because they do not by design or intent implicate the media or the public in the way that terrorists acts necessarily do. The people who killed Matthew Shepard clearly intended to kill him because he was gay. There is nothing to suggest that they wanted his murder to terrorize all gay people (though I could be wrong, I don't have all the facts).

It does not criminalize belief. It criminalizes action, and factors in intent. A hate crime is a hate crime because it deliberately targets somebody on the basis of race, sex, etc.

You are confusing "intent" with "motive". Motive is not an element of any crime. We don't care why someone killed someone else, just whether they intended to do it or not.

Furthermore, motive routinely comes into play in sentencing, and could easily find a place in cases where the motive for the crime is prejudice - e.g. accused kills a gay man because he was gay, so the judge throws the book at him.

Hate crimes very clearly criminalize motive. And that is very dangerous, because of this:

Hate crime legislation tells the minority group that the majority explicitly condemns criminal action against them; that seems positive, as messages go.

Since when is it a laudable goal to use the law to deliver the messages of the majority? The purpose of the law is to temper the will of the majority against the minority. The purpose of hate crimes laws is not to remedy the situation where crimes motivated by hate went unpunished. In fact, when those situations did happen, hate crimes were not the solution.

Second, using legislation in this way sends messages poorly. Read this thread. People have not all received the same common message. If you want to deliver a message, then deliver it. Clearly.

Finally, the logic is confused. We already have laws that demonstrate that "the majority explicitly condemns criminal action" against anyone, which inherently includes the minority.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:47 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


"... this is so self evident that I don't know why we have to have this discussion every time the subject comes up." Maybe it is happening because not everyone agrees with you? "Look, just accept the fact that I'm right on this, it's getting old having to tell people that" is not a fantastic argument. If you want to talk about it, that's fine. "Recognize my rightness" isn't discussion, though, as much as I respect you as a person, nor do bingo cards suffice. You're tired, I get it. So am I. That does not generate an auto-win for anyone.

Hate crime legislation is one of those things where, in theory, in some abstract form, it might be a good idea. In practice, in the hands of humans, I believe it will not go well. Some laws lend themselves to a greater amount of abuse or lead to other things the same way that, while you can write secure code in any programming language, some of them seem to woo and court the suck.

There's a couple of good books out there about the criminalization of everything. One suggests that the average person commits three felonies a day. Intent doesn't always factor. It seems to factor not a lot. I dunno, maybe those red light cameras appearing at nearly every intersection have mind-reading modules built in, but I kinda doubt it. I very, very strongly loathe the increasing criminalization of behavior, because I do not want to live in a society where what is not mandatory is forbidden. I jokingly talk about the invention of an Anti-Congress, whose sole job it is to find and destroy old laws we no longer need. I don't think the courts or legislative bodies overturn enough stuff as it is.

I basically support legislation which enables people to do things they want to do, like get married, rather than legislation which criminalizes various things. When those actions people wish to undertake affect one person, directly, that is a matter of interest. When you start talking criminalization advocated on the indirect effects of actions is where you begin to wander into "think of the children" territory, and I get nervous there, because that is the same land populated by people who will cheerfully tell you that gay marriage will erode the sanctity of heterowedding, or that smokin' dope will cause folks to run amok. It's marshy out there. I walk there carefully, past a ghost town once named Temperance. A lot of people try to stake a claim out in the land where we draw some conclusions about how a small, local act has some grand and disproportionate effect.

For non-human entities, that is, corporations, restrict the hell out of them.

As to Sinthasomphone, who was originally known to me only by initials due to his age, if it's reasonable to draw sweeping conclusions about hate crimes legislation from Matt Shepard, I may submit that this one incident qualifies as well, namely that we could work on actual enforcement of what we've got.
posted by adipocere at 12:51 PM on October 29, 2009


What you're not free to do is go out and assault or kill homosexuals because you believe that they're abominations, that they're disgusting, or that Jesus cries every time two of them have sex.

Is the distinction really that hard to understand?
posted by EarBucket at 3:33 PM on October 2


What you don't understand is that you didn't need to write any other words than "What you're not free to do is go out and assault or kill"?

The problem you have is that I can replace "assault and kill" with a variety of other actions and the activity against homosexuals becomes perfectly legal ("mock", "parody", "campaign against"), but there is nothing I can replace in the latter part of that statement (after "kill") that makes it legal. You can't "go out and assault and kill" anyone. Period. No matter who the target, it's always illegal.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:52 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hate crimes very clearly criminalize motive.

Actually, no; you're not punished for, saying, intending to start a race war. You're punished for targetiung somebody on the basis of race, gender, etc. It doesn't really matter what your motive was, and this is an inap conflation of the two words. "Let's get that homo!" is not a motive, it is intent. "Let's get that homo so that we can brag about it later!" is motive, and that doesn't need to be established, unless I am misreading this, and every other hate crime case I have looked into. If so, please explain to me how.

Hate crime legislation tells the minority group that the majority explicitly condemns criminal action against them; that seems positive, as messages go.

Since when is it a laudable goal to use the law to deliver the messages of the majority?


If a white person is attacked by a black person, and it is determined to be a hate crime, it can also be prosecuted under this law. In 2004, about 20 percent of the victims of hate crimes were white.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:56 PM on October 29, 2009


Hate crime legislation is one of those things where, in theory, in some abstract form, it might be a good idea. In practice, in the hands of humans, I believe it will not go well.

As it happens, laws are not made based on whether your abilities as a prognosticator are good or not. I happen to think this will be an effective tool in the battle against hate crimes -- especially since it will allow the feds to step in if local officials are unwilling to prosecute, which has been a problem in the past.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:59 PM on October 29, 2009


Are G8 riots terrorism? Were the LA riots after the Rodney King trial terrorism?

Where've you been the last eight years?

There is nothing to suggest that they wanted his murder to terrorize all gay people (though I could be wrong, I don't have all the facts).

Harming people because of their membership in a class- be it race, gender, sexuality, religious, whatever- isn't just the harming of one person. It sends a message- next time it could be you. If you want to deny that, well, shut your straight, white male mouth and try listening to people who live the reality of being targeted for their minority status.

Furthermore, motive routinely comes into play in sentencing, and could easily find a place in cases where the motive for the crime is prejudice - e.g. accused kills a gay man because he was gay, so the judge throws the book at him.

And that's what hate crimes do- impose harsher sentences for motives that are judged to be especially heinous. Are you going to pretend that this is the first time that you've heard of hate crimes and nobody has ever explained this to you?

Shit, that's what really gets me. You- yes, you personally- have had this explained to you. This has been explained, over and over, on this site and on hundreds of other websites. How about you stop pretending you don't know this shit and tell us the real reasons you oppose it instead of busting out the same strawman bullshit that comes up every time?
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:01 PM on October 29, 2009


Pastabagel: What you don't understand is that you didn't need to write any other words than "What you're not free to do is go out and assault or kill"?

Certainly, but there are plenty of other cases where intent elevates the penalties attached to assaults and homicide: assault in the commission of another crime, assault with a deadly weapon, and assault as part of gang activity. There are also a wide variety of mitigating factors: diminished capacity, heat of the moment, and provocation or self defense.

We already recognize different categories of assault and homicide. Planned and premeditated attacks certainly should be considered by a higher standard.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:05 PM on October 29, 2009


a new presidential helicopter

This is likely the same presidential helicopter that McCain bitched to Obama about in February even though Bush ordered the helicopter. Obama implied he'd cancel it.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:16 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would like to thank everyone who made succinct yet cogent arguments in favor of hate-crime legislation - I previously had a 'con' stance on the subject, due to my difficulties in reconciling the concept of 'thought crime' vs 'free speech' and the like. However, with some clear illustrations of how it isn't JUST a speech issue, but also an incitement problem and the creation of a fear culture, I believe my position on the topic has changed.

Let this day go down in history - Someone on the Inter-Nets Just Convinced Me to Change My Mind!
posted by FatherDagon at 1:41 PM on October 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


You know what else was super-illegal? Being Jewish. Against Hitler.

“These acts are not acts of terrorism because they do not by design or intent implicate the media or the public in the way that terrorists acts necessarily do.”

Cogent thinking, but wrong. It is an act that has exactly the same psychological impact as a terrorist act.
The only difference is that the identification of the person committing the act (murder, whatnot) in the case of a hate crime is negative rather than positive.
A terrorist kills because he is something. He believes in something and wishes to promote that agenda. He identifies himself with the cause.

A person committing a hate crime does it not to assert their own identity, but to refuse the validity of another’s. Therefore the desire to terrify, say, all gay people doesn’t have to be there as it does for a terrorist who wants to, say, terrify all Americans to have essentially the same effect on the target audience.
(There are overlapping elements there, and tangential details, but that’s the thumbnail.)

Terrorist violence is linked to and justified by ideological (religious, political, social) objectives and nearly always involves a group or a number of supporters.
While hate crimes don’t necessarily have a coherent ideological objective it almost always has the same foundational social component. Even if it’s impulsive.

So, in both cases, the barriers to killing/harming another human are eroded by a specific social thought collective and so both are social violence rather than interpersonal violence.

The law should respond accordingly. So too should law enforcement.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:53 PM on October 29, 2009


I don't believe a federal hate crimes bill is "a step towards equality". By definition, a bill that applies to the same crime against one person but not another is inequality. I understand, and the thread backs me up, that it's an effort to make the affected group feel more "equal" by eliminating a source of fear. But it's messed up to me to think if I'm assaulted tomorrow, my assailant will get less of a sentencing if proven guilty merely because I'm not in an affected group, and that's "equality".

True equality would mean all people are treated equal, criminal and victim. Some may argue that this is a means to an end, but I wonder aloud if this legislation will ever be removed from the books in the case that that end is reached; that once people are no longer motivated to hurt others because of their hatred of some characteristic the legislation will be removed to ensure all people are treated equal. I somehow doubt it.
posted by TheFlamingoKing at 2:00 PM on October 29, 2009


in some abstract form, it might be a good idea. In practice, in the hands of humans, I believe it will not go well.

We've had hate crimes legislation for forty years. How much longer do you believe we'll need to wait before the going gets unwell?
posted by msalt at 2:01 PM on October 29, 2009


I understand, and the thread backs me up, that it's an effort to make the affected group feel more "equal" by eliminating a source of fear.

Your understanding is wrong and the thread does not back you up.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:03 PM on October 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Hate crime legislation is one of those things where, in theory, in some abstract form, it might be a good idea. In practice, in the hands of humans, I believe it will not go well.

As mentioned numerous times above, hate crimes legislation in the hands of humans has been going well since 1969! And many in law enforcement, etc. have supported the expansion of existing laws to include additional classes -- gender, disability and sexual orientation.
"According to FBI statistics, of the over 113,000 hate crimes since 1991, 55% were motivated by racial bias, 17% by religious bias, 14% sexual orientation bias, 14% ethnicity bias, and 1% disability bias.

The [Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention -- aka the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd, Jr. Hates Crimes Prevention] Act is supported by thirty-one state Attorneys General and over 210 national law enforcement, professional, education, civil rights, religious, and civic organizations, including the AFL-CIO, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the NAACP. A November 2001 poll indicated that 73% of Americans favor hate-crime legislation covering sexual orientation."*
posted by ericb at 2:08 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


You are confusing "intent" with "motive".

You know, even though I actually echoed this statement myself a little earlier, now I'm having second thoughts. I don't think any confusion between "intent" and "motive" is really at issue here. The only intent required under the law typically for murder is the intent with "aforethought and malice" to kill an individual (though state law can vary in the standards of culpability and degrees applied to charges of murder).

But the whole point is that the intent of a hate crime isn't merely to kill an individual. It's to kill an individual to make a point. It's not the same thing as killing someone for their shoes or because you think they're out to get you.

That's why hate crimes constitute, quite naturally, a different order of crime. The intent of a hate crime isn't just to kill or harm a person. The intent is to use force to punish or discourage a particular pattern of behavior or to impose a particular belief on others. In other words, these crimes have the added dimension of representing attempts to impose vigilante justice, and in a certain sense, represent a direct challenge to the sovereignty of the legitimate governing authorities.

Hate crimes have to be treated differently purely on legal principle because tolerance of hate crimes encourages mob rule, which is fundamentally inconsistent with the foundational principles of democratic republics that emphasize the rule of law. This is a law and order matter, plain and simple. (Libertarians call it the state's "monopoly on force"; but whatever you call it--legal sovereignty, monopoly on force--it's still the law, and it goes back a hell of a lot longer in the Western legal tradition than even the civil rights movement.)
posted by saulgoodman at 2:11 PM on October 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


By definition, a bill that applies to the same crime against one person but not another is inequality.

It applies to ALL OF US. If a crime is committed against you for WHO YOU ARE (i.e. being a man, a woman, gay, straight, bisexual, black, Jewish, Christian, etc.) these laws cover you.
posted by ericb at 2:11 PM on October 29, 2009


FlamingoKing: By definition, a bill that applies to the same crime against one person but not another is inequality.

That's not what hate crimes legislation does. These laws do apply to everyone equally. For example, the Supreme Court decision upholding these laws, Wisconsin v. Mitchell, involved a group of Blacks who had been watching "Mississippi Burning", got mad and decided to beat up the next white person they saw.

That decision raises an interesting point that no one here has mentioned -- that crimes aimed at a demographic are worse for society because they incite retaliatory attacks and social unrest, in a way that individual crimes don't. That cycle of retaliation is visible everywhere from India to Northern Ireland to Bosnia to Rwanda.
posted by msalt at 2:11 PM on October 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


it's messed up to me to think if I'm assaulted tomorrow, my assailant will get less of a sentencing if proven guilty merely because I'm not in an affected group, and that's "equality".

You are correct, that is messed up thinking. Because, by your simple existence, with this expansion of the already existing hate-crime bill, depending on the circumstances of your assault, you could very well find your assailant being charged with a hate crime. I note you have no personal information listed in your profile, but I will assume that the "King" part of your username means that you are male. If you were being attacked BECAUSE YOU ARE A MALE, AS A SYMBOLIC REPRESENTATIVE OF ALL MALES, your assailant could be charged with a hate crime.

Is that really hard to understand?
posted by hippybear at 2:13 PM on October 29, 2009


I understand, and the thread backs me up, that it's an effort to make the affected group feel more "equal" by eliminating a source of fear.

Non-gays are also protected under this legislation! We are all "equal" under this law.

From our recent related FPP, a comment by kafziel:
"A pack of gays dragging a 'breeder' behind a truck would be hit by this legislation just as harsh as the reverse. Before someone says that well, that doesn't happen nearly as much, so it's not really equal treatment ... think on that for a second. Maybe that's why things like this exist."
posted by ericb at 2:15 PM on October 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


TheFlamingoKing: But it's messed up to me to think if I'm assaulted tomorrow, my assailant will get less of a sentencing if proven guilty merely because I'm not in an affected group, and that's "equality".

Everyone is in a protected group. If, as O'Reilly claims, there are gangs of pink pistol-packing lesbians specifically targeting "breeders." That would be a hate crime. Bombing a mainstream Church would be a hate crime. (As should be Adkisson's ideologically-motivated massacre at a Unitarian-Universalist Church.)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:15 PM on October 29, 2009


Really, "terrorism"? Are you sure you want to sling that word around?

terrorism: 1. the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.

Yeah, I feel ok about it. For the record, I describe abortion clinic bombings and church burnings the same way, in case you feel I'm being disingenuous.

The people who killed Matthew Shepard clearly intended to kill him because he was gay. There is nothing to suggest that they wanted his murder to terrorize all gay people (though I could be wrong, I don't have all the facts).
"The two got into a conversation with Shepard, a freshman at the University of Wyoming, told him they were gay, and invited him to ride with them. In McKinney's father's pickup, Shepard told them he had just left a planning meeting for a Gay Awareness Week celebration.

'Guess what—we're not gay,' McKinney said. 'This is Gay Awareness Week.' He hit the student with a stolen revolver." [cite]
The two men pretended to be gay in order to isolate a gay political activist and murder him, as a direct response to the current political event promoting gay tolerance. Terrorism seems like a good description, I think.

The purpose of hate crimes laws is not to remedy the situation where crimes motivated by hate went unpunished. In fact, when those situations did happen, hate crimes were not the solution.

As previously articulated, one of the effects of hate crime legislation is to bring to bear federal law enforcement to investigate in ways that local law enforcement did not or will not. This is arguably a solution to "hate crimes going unpunished".

People have not all received the same common message. If you want to deliver a message, then deliver it. Clearly.

There is no message that can be so clearly delivered that it is therefore invulnerable to willful mischaracterization and deliberate misunderstanding.
posted by Errant at 2:17 PM on October 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Let's get that homo!" is not a motive, it is intent.

The 'let's get' goes to intent. You are reading in the motive. The reason they 'did the getting' is because the victim was gay. But you don't need that to convict on the crime.

A person committing a hate crime does it not to assert their own identity, but to refuse the validity of another’s. Therefore the desire to terrify, say, all gay people doesn’t have to be there as it does for a terrorist who wants to, say, terrify all Americans to have essentially the same effect on the target audience.
(There are overlapping elements there, and tangential details, but that’s the thumbnail.)


See, actually, it isn't thumbnail, it's the central issue. You can't redefine words as you go. The words already have a meaning, and the meaning is fixed until a court says otherwise. Furthermore, you don't actually know why someone commits a hate crime. You think you know. You are speculating, and want to criminalize based on (a) the speculation, and (b) on the basis that speculation is okay if you are doing it. I could very successfully argue that the person committing the hate crime does so to suppress their own identity.

But the reason why anyone does anything is not relevant in a criminal context. Did you mean to take the the action that gave rise to the result, that is the question of intent.

There are also a wide variety of mitigating factors: diminished capacity, heat of the moment, and provocation or self defense.

We already recognize different categories of assault and homicide. Planned and premeditated attacks certainly should be considered by a higher standard.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:05 PM on October 29


They are. That's why there is more than one degree of murder. There is absolutely no reason the judge in his discretion can't take the motive in a crime under advisement during sentencing.

It is undeniable that hate crimes legislation creates the impression that what is being criminalized is the hate. This is so because the act itself, the assault or the murder, was already criminalized.

I think what supporters of this aren't realizing is that hates crimes legislation creates a precedent for bringing motive into the elements of a crime. But you can't predict or control how precedent gets used. And it will almost certainly be used in a way that many of you won't like, and by that time it will be too late to stop it.
posted by Pastabagel at 2:21 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think what supporters of this aren't realizing is that hates crimes legislation creates a precedent for bringing motive into the elements of a crime. But you can't predict or control how precedent gets used. And it will almost certainly be used in a way that many of you won't like, and by that time it will be too late to stop it.

Since we actually only prosecute actions in this country, not thoughts or speech, I cannot picture a situation where knowledge of the potential for sentencing to be greater, even due to misconstrued prosecution or application of justice, and therefore that knowledge is a deterrent to someone taking criminal action would NOT be a good thing. Can you perhaps explain your words? Because from where I sit, they sound like fear-mongering abstracts and have no real grounding in how this law will be applied.
posted by hippybear at 2:26 PM on October 29, 2009


You know how you get more time for armed robbery than for just robbery?

The rationale is that when armed you are threatening someone's life, and showing you have the means to do it, and it's a credible threat. That's why armed robbery is worse than robbery (these are two crimes, robbery, and, let's say, "credible threat to life"), but shouting "I'm gonna fucking kill you" to someone who cuts in line in front of you is not a crime, because it's not a credible threat.

Same thing, if you kill someone, that's murder. One crime. If you go all Jerry Falwell and start yelling that homosexuality is an abomination and fags are evil, that's lame, but not even a crime, because it's not considered a credible threat (even though in some cases it is). However, if you go ahead and kill a homosexual while yelling "fags are evil", those are two crimes - a murder, against the victim, and a credible threat against everyone else in their class (that is, if you are gay, and you see someone choking a gay man with his own intestines while yelling "fags are evil", you have no doubt at all that you should fear for your life).
posted by qvantamon at 2:27 PM on October 29, 2009


Hate crime legislation is one of those things where, in theory, in some abstract form, it might be a good idea. In practice, in the hands of humans, I believe it will not go well.

It's been a good idea for quite awhile now and is going well, but could be improved. Take one municipality as an example ...

Stopping Hate Crime: A Case History From the Sacramento Police Department
“Hate crime has struck fear in communities across America. In 1995 alone, nearly 8,000 incidents nation- wide were reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); 61 percent of those violent acts were motivated by racial bias. This fact sheet reports the experiences of one community’s battle to stop hate crime. It is based on a report submitted to the Bureau of Justice Assistance by the Sacramento Police Department as part of a grant to fund hate crime prevention efforts.”
[more].
posted by ericb at 2:27 PM on October 29, 2009


Thanks to those of you that are trying to inform me rather than offer constructive comments along the lines of "you're wrong and stupid."

msalt: "involved a group of Blacks who had been watching "Mississippi Burning", got mad and decided to beat up the next white person they saw."

This is where I'm lost. Had they watched "Mississippi Burning", got mad, and decided to beat up the next person they saw regardless of race, that would be just a "regular" crime? And thus, if you can prove a racial connection, whether it was the true motive or not, the crime is somehow more severe than beating an innocent person in the first place? We should discourage all violence, yes? Not say some violence is more bad than others because of motive?

To ericb, hippybear, this is what I mean about unequal. Yes, the hate crime legislation is applied to all of us. But it creates a system where the same crime could be given two different sentences just based on what can be determined about motive. All violence is atrocious but it seems this lessens the charge of an act of violence against a random individual vs. a targeted one, makes one more significant instead of realizing that both are horrible.

Personally, I'd like to think that if a person inflicted equal violence against me, regardless of whether they picked me specifically or I was a random target, I would receive the same justice.
posted by TheFlamingoKing at 2:29 PM on October 29, 2009


I wonder what the FBI has to say hate crime legislation "in theory, in the abstract?" Oh, wait a minute. They have a lot to say about it "in practice!"
posted by ericb at 2:30 PM on October 29, 2009


Around here we had a group of thieves who targeted Indian women on the theory that they often stored gold jewelry at home. They were charged under the state hate crimes law in addition to the other charges.

Interesting! But this sounds less like hate than a business calculation. Bias if you insist, but emotionally neutral. Sort as if they went after women porting Hermes scarves and Prada handbags on the thinking that there's likely to be more swag to be had there than with the bag lady.

Or perhaps there is more to the story?
posted by IndigoJones at 2:33 PM on October 29, 2009


TheFlamingoKing, do you think that an opposite player during a soccer game shouting "I'm gonna fucking kill you" after some play should be a crime?
Do you think the same situation, except that you've already personally seen him slaughter an opposing player, should be a crime (in addition to the murder itself)

In one case, he's an obnoxious person being obnoxious. In the other case, he's making very clear that he will find you and will kill you.

The added penalty on the hate crime is NOT for the intention related to the murder itself, but for the separate crime of credibly threatening the life of everyone in the same class. Killing someone for being gay with that clear motiviation is like pointing a gun to every gay person's head and telling them to stop being gay.
posted by qvantamon at 2:37 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


The FBI on 'hate crime:'
"A hate crime is a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, Congress has defined a hate crime as a 'criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.' Hate itself is not a crime—and the FBI is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties."
More from the FBI:
"Investigating hate crime is the number one priority of our Civil Rights Program. Why? Not only because hate crime has a devastating impact on families and communities, but also because groups that preach hatred and intolerance plant the seeds of terrorism here in our country."
More on the FBI's jurisdiction, role and how hate crimes are investigated and prosecuted.
posted by ericb at 2:37 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


The two men pretended to be gay in order to isolate a gay political activist and murder him, as a direct response to the current political event promoting gay tolerance. Terrorism seems like a good description, I think.

I'm glad you think so. So you've convinced me that terrorism laws are better suited to this, not hate crimes. So why weren't they charged with committing an act of terrorism?

And thank you for agreeing that G8 protesters and Rodney King rioters were terrorists as well. You do realize that you are arguing that every legitimate protest be treated as being a possible terrorist attack, right?

There is no message that can be so clearly delivered that it is therefore invulnerable to willful mischaracterization and deliberate misunderstanding.
posted by Errant at 5:17 PM on October 29


Let me diagram this for you so you understand:

Law 1: It is criminal to do X. Doing X is punishable by Y years in prison.
Law 2: It is criminal to do X if motivated by reason R. Doing X motivated by R is punishable by Z years in prison.

Z is greater than X. The difference between Z and X is due entirely to R being the motive for the crime.

This is true for all values of R, especially the R's you personally agree with. Not just the R's you don't like.
posted by Pastabagel at 2:40 PM on October 29, 2009


it creates a system where the same crime could be given two different sentences just based on what can be determined about motive.

I think you'll find this already exists, independent of hate crime legislation, which has actually been on the books for years and was just now expanded.

Does it not make sense to you that setting fire to a house owned by blacks in a mostly white neighborhood is a different crime than burning down the house next door, owned by white protestants? Or do you see these crimes as equal, and therefore discount the inherent message in the first instance (that being "blacks are not welcome here") as being something which society should seek to squelch when said attitude leads to destructive actions?
posted by hippybear at 2:41 PM on October 29, 2009


Pastabagel: They are. That's why there is more than one degree of murder. There is absolutely no reason the judge in his discretion can't take the motive in a crime under advisement during sentencing.

Judges and prosecutors are limited in their discretion here by statute. Without statutory authority to consider a higher degree of felony, they can't arbitrarily do so.

It is undeniable that hate crimes legislation creates the impression that what is being criminalized is the hate.

I'd say that your bad, lazy, and stupid mischaracterization of the law does so, not the legislation its self.

This is so because the act itself, the assault or the murder, was already criminalized.

Certainly. No one has ever denied this. But the current structure of our laws for assault and homicide include laundry lists of aggravating and mitigating factors that allows to to say, which crimes should be considered worthy of life without possibility of parole, and which should be considered worthy of a 5-10 sentence. What hate crime legislation does is, is put certain organized and premeditated acts higher in that hierarchy.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:41 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


All violence is atrocious but it seems this lessens the charge of an act of violence against a random individual vs. a targeted one, makes one more significant instead of realizing that both are horrible.

No, it actually increases the penalties for an act of violence against a targeted individual. It doesn't lesson the penalties for any other types of violence at all. I can see as how that might be confusing, though.
posted by Caduceus at 2:41 PM on October 29, 2009


BTW -- for those who aren't fully aware of the history of U.S. Hate Crime legislation (it was originally enacted in 1969, as mentioned ad nauseum above), efforts by Congress to expand its coverage to gender, disability and sexual orientation have been going on since 1999. The current bill has been working its way through the system since April 3, 2001.
posted by ericb at 2:44 PM on October 29, 2009


You do realize that you are arguing that every legitimate protest be treated as being a possible terrorist attack, right?

Property destruction is legitimate protest?

Goodness.
posted by hippybear at 2:44 PM on October 29, 2009


And? This legislation penalizes violent acts perpetrated with the intent to terrorize (I like that phrasing, btw, thank you to whomever said it upthread) a demographic group.

The FBI itself uses the term 'terrorism' when referring to hate crimes.
"Investigating hate crime is the number one priority of our Civil Rights Program. Why? Not only because hate crime has a devastating impact on families and communities, but also because groups that preach hatred and intolerance plant the seeds of terrorism here in our country."
posted by ericb at 2:47 PM on October 29, 2009


Pastabagel: Law 2: It is criminal to do X if motivated by reason R. Doing X motivated by R is punishable by Z years in prison.

We crossed that bridge a long time ago when we decided that R included intent to commit property and drug offenses.

TheFlamnegoKing: But it creates a system where the same crime could be given two different sentences just based on what can be determined about motive.

Yes, and...? It seems that we have no problems in considering these things to be reasonable factors when we look at factors like provocation and self defense vs. factors like intent to rob you blind.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:48 PM on October 29, 2009


Personally, I'd like to think that if a person inflicted equal violence against me, regardless of whether they picked me specifically or I was a random target, I would receive the same justice.

But neither of these are hate crimes. If someone picks you specifically, they hate you. If you were a random target, then it could have been anyone. A hate crime would be if you were picked because you were a member of a demographic group. Say, flamingos. You're targeted just because you're a flamingo. You can't help being a flamingo. The attacker hates flamingos and assaults you because of that. That's a hate crime.

Now what if I was also a flamingo? I'd be right to be scared, because some dude is going around attacking people just for being flamingos. Not because the dude hates me specifically, or because I'm some random person. But because I'm a flamingo.

if you type flamingo enough times it starts to be a nonsense word [not-flamingoist]
posted by desjardins at 2:49 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


And of course, with many hate crimes, we have a level of deception and premeditation that go above and beyond mere physical violence. Benjamin Smith staked out neighborhoods and churches to fill his bingo card of "mud races." Andrade likely hid his revulsion for long enough to court a transgendered woman until he could get her alone and vulnerable. McInerney announced his intentions to kill King the day before, and put two bullets in the back of King's head the next day. There was a case in NYC in the last few years where the bashers used the internet to establish relationships and lure gay men into vulnerable positions. Stephen Scarborough had a history of picking up and mugging men from gay bars before his encounter with Victor Manious (a history that wasn't included in Scarborough's trial.) Eric Robert Rudolph may not have met his victims, but he certainly knew what he was doing with those bombs.

So when we are talking about hate crimes, we are not talking about minorities as victims of crime. We are talking about deliberate, targeted, and premeditated predatory behavior, that in some cases may be linked to politically-motivated criminal groups.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:04 PM on October 29, 2009


However, if you go ahead and kill a homosexual while yelling "fags are evil", those are two crimes - a murder, against the victim, and a credible threat against everyone else in their class...

Also applies if you are a straight Ecuadorian man who is killed in NYC because your attackers mistakenly thought you were gay, as well as being bashed for being an immigrant.
posted by ericb at 3:06 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]



So you've convinced me that terrorism laws are better suited to this, not hate crimes. So why weren't they charged with committing an act of terrorism?


I don't know for sure, of course, not being their prosecutor. I assume their prosecutor went with the charges he thought a jury would convict on. Law And Order tells me prosecutors are a notoriously pragmatic bunch, but since that show is the extent of my knowledge about prosecutorial litigation, I'll take a pass on answering your question. By the way, did I really convince you, or is that a disingenuous accession?

Let me diagram this for you so you understand:

Law 1: It is criminal to do X. Doing X is punishable by Y years in prison.
Law 2: It is criminal to do X if motivated by reason R. Doing X motivated by R is punishable by Z years in prison.

Z is greater than X. The difference between Z and X is due entirely to R being the motive for the crime.


I know you wanted me to understand at last, but this doesn't make any sense. You're equating Z, a sentence in years, with X, a criminal act. Are you trying to distinguish the difference between Y and Z, two sentences with differing values based on motive R? That seems like what you're trying to get at, but I don't want to misread your argument.

If it is, though, people get different sentences for crime X based on all kinds of things all the time. Is it your position that there should not be flexible sentencing rules and that motive should never play a role in determining penalty, that if you commit crime X you get sentence Y, always and regardless?

This is true for all values of R, especially the R's you personally agree with. Not just the R's you don't like.

I don't think I understand what you mean here, but: yes, this is exactly true. Different motives and circumstances change sentencing. Motives I think are sympathetic, I hope mitigate sentences. Motives I think are noxious, I hope aggravate sentences. Where lawmakers have so far agreed with me, they do; where lawmakers have not, they do not. There's nothing new about that, I don't think.
posted by Errant at 3:16 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Obama advisor A:

Look, we need to pass a defense bill while the economy is tanked and the deficit is exploding but we don't know how to do it without someone noticing that the US is bankrupting itself on pointless foreign wars and spending half the world's total military spending.

Obama advisor B:

I know, tack a bit of highly controversial legislation onto it that will put liberal American and conservative American into a spin

Obama advisor A:

Hmmm, abortion, can't get that into a military bill, how about hate crimes?

Obama advisor B:

You sir, have solved our problem
posted by sien at 3:18 PM on October 29, 2009


Oh, missed this somehow:

And thank you for agreeing that G8 protesters and Rodney King rioters were terrorists as well.

I didn't, but:

You do realize that you are arguing that every legitimate protest be treated as being a possible terrorist attack, right?


1. Protests that turn violent are not legitimate protests;

2. Pretty much all protests, legitimate or otherwise, are treated as potential terrorist attacks, especially G8 / WTO / IMF / etc. protests, whether I'm inclined to treat them so or not. But I tend to think any politically-motivated mass gathering should be treated as at least a potential terrorist target, if not a potential terrorist threat, so I don't especially mind the security, really.
posted by Errant at 3:22 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Other then that, Andrew Sullivan is unhappy, thinking this does nothing for actual gay rights..."

Is this the same Andrew Sullivan we're talking about here? The devout Catholic who cheerleaded attacking Iraq, hailed President Bush's transformation into a neocon, who criticized the "self-righteousness" of the anti-war protesters, and their "facile, asinine support for "peace"? The Andrew Sullivan who who endorsed Ron Paul, despite Paul's anti-gay rhetoric and neo-nazi friends whose money he has *NEVER* rejected and *NEVER* returned? The "presidential candidate" who felt that it wasn't enough to repeatedly call someone "queer" after being sexually propositioned by them, and who joked that he should've beaten him up as well?!

Are we talking about Andrew Sullivan, the British jetsetting neoconservative Thatcherite who whined about not being invited to the White House and being excluded from the decision-making process on LGBT policies? The one who falsely claimed that President Obama had "no verifiable record that he has done anything" to advance gay rights? Is this the one who used The Atlantic to tell President Obama to "have a nice steaming cup of shut-the-fuck-up", but who idolized President Reagan, even though he waited nearly his entire administration -- condemning over 50,000 gays to a hopeless death -- before addressing the AIDS crisis? Who accused the largest GLBT organization in the U.S. of doing nothing to advance gay rights, saying that their "real job is to get gay money to support healthcare reform"?

Is this the Andrew Sullivan who opposed laws that would ban employment discrimination against gays and lesbians, because of his "libertarian qualms"? The one who opposed hate crimes legislation after Matthew Shepard's lynching, saying "Why should straight criminals be vilified and doubly punished"... as if brutal lynchings done with the goal of terrorizing and silencing entire communities should be viewed as morally and legally equivalent to a crime of passion, or a random bullet fired by a gangbanger? The barebacking HIV+ Andrew Sullivan who defended Bush's early policies that blocked funds for many of Africa's family planning organizations -- the ones that distributed condoms and educated Africans about the threat of AIDS -- thereby helping spread AIDS in Africa? Is this the Andrew Sullivan who has repeatedly, irresponsibly, and prematurely proclaimed the end of AIDS? Is this the one who was fine with cutting off safe sex funding for many of the family planning clinics in Africa, but who later railed against efforts to make AIDS drugs available to Africans, saying that the answer was safe sex education and cultural change?! The "I'll say it loud; I'll say it proud: I love drug companies" Andrew Sullivan, who popped his anti-retrovirals while Africa burned, and labeled queer activism, "a strange confluence of political abdication and psychological violence"?

The stone, cold fact is that it's not President Obama who has "no verifiable record that he has done anything" for the gay community... or the world at large. It's Andrew Sullivan. Indeed, he has visibly, substantively, and repeatedly *HURT* the gay community, and has done more than his share in killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

He is a monster.
posted by markkraft at 3:35 PM on October 29, 2009 [16 favorites]


YAY! For both bills.
posted by kathrineg at 3:47 PM on October 29, 2009


Well...both major aspects of the one bill
posted by kathrineg at 3:47 PM on October 29, 2009


Seriously, though, how is the "it's punishing people for what they think!" meme getting passed around?

That obnoxious meme spreads because those afflicted with it feel threatened.

They feel threatened, because they want to live in a society where inflicting violence on gay people is still somehow right and justified. They want to live in a world where the local law can look the other way while violence against GLBT folks persists, because in a God-fearing America that's how it really should be, right?

Any progress that interferes with the expression of that subconscious (and for some, conscious) desire is considered a threat to their reality. The only connection to the First Amendment is what they make up, because they are ultimately clutching at straws to preserve their sense of reality. Any rationalization will do.

Tying their campaign of hate to the First Amendment is just a smokescreen for keeping things the way they are.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:48 PM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Obama advisor A: Look, we need to pass a defense bill while the economy is tanked and the deficit is exploding but we don't know how to do it without someone noticing that the US is bankrupting itself on pointless foreign wars and spending half the world's total military spending. Obama advisor B: I know, tack a bit of highly controversial legislation onto it that will put liberal American and conservative American into a spin...

Um. the Executive branch does not determine what bills get attached to others. That happens in Congress, the Legislative branch. "Democrats in Congress who long have been pushing for expansion of the hate-crime law added it to the bill." *.

A refresher course; Schoolhouse Rock -- How a Bill Becomes a Law.
posted by ericb at 3:52 PM on October 29, 2009


King O' Flam:
Had they watched "Mississippi Burning", got mad, and decided to beat up the next person they saw regardless of race, that would be just a "regular" crime?

Yes, exactly.

if you can prove a racial connection, whether it was the true motive or not, the crime is somehow more severe than beating an innocent person in the first place?

Remember ethnic cleansing in Bosnia? People were committing crimes against ethnic groups specifically to intimidate them into leaving their homes; it became deadly to stay. That's a perfect example. Ditto lynching in the South, which was more about intimidating Blacks to not stand up for their rights than making them move.

We should discourage all violence, yes? Not say some violence is more bad than others because of motive?

NO! Doesn't follow it all. A political thug shooting a nun because she stood up for non-violent political change, or a Mafia hit man assassinating a bystander witness to one of his crimes, is much more bad than a criminal shooting a cocaine dealer to steal his guns and dope. There is a social effect on hundreds or even millions of people, that makes it a fundamentally different type of crime. Even though the actual act (shooting one person dead) is the same.
posted by msalt at 3:55 PM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


“See, actually, it isn't thumbnail, it's the central issue.”

It be nice if I were a better writer so I could be certain that this was more your mistake than mine. In either case – your understanding is wrong. A ‘thumbnail’ in this sense means – it’s a summary. A short description rather than an in-depth analysis.

“Furthermore, you don't actually know why someone commits a hate crime.”

Then we don’t know why anyone commits any crime. We have evidence though. And witnesses. And we can build a case and sentence people based on those facts.

“I could very successfully argue that the person committing the hate crime does so to suppress their own identity.”

Then you would be supporting my point which is self-concept not dichotomy of psyche. Either you miss the point as to how violent extremist behavior collectivizes through identity and forms the identity of a group socially and how participants assert their place and roles through a variety of acts that are dangerous and harmful to themselves and/or others or you’re playing games with rhetoric.

“But the reason why anyone does anything is not relevant in a criminal context.”

No, it’s not relevant to a conviction in a court of law. It’s very relevant to, oh, say, counterterrorists, criminologists, intelligence analysts, sociologists, law enforcement agencies, any number of other fields involving crime and violence and methods to, y’know, maybe stop them.
Because without motive – there’s no investigation. So ok, some random white guys kill a random black guy. Did they hate him? No. Did he owe them money? No. Did he injure one of them or sleep with their wives or something? No. Did they know him or have any connection to him at all? No.
Huh. Well, why would they just kill some random guy for no reason?
Hate crimes law recognizes there are motives other than interpersonal violence, and, y’know, there is.
Among the other effect these laws have is not only aiding prosecution but incentivising and validating investigation. ‘Some shadowy outfit dresses in white hoods and meets out in the woods – yeah sure, whatever there mr. conspiracy theory.’

Why would some nice regular guys from the neighborhood systematically rape women and kill men and children? Gosh, there sure can’t be an ethnic or religious reason for it. Even if there is, let’s treat it just like all those other regular people who flip out and round up hundreds of people and displace them and slaughter them

I mean hell, why is ‘genocide’ a crime beyond mass murder is why someone does something isn’t relevant? Or if it’s only in the criminal context? Government must recognize social realities. Crime motivated by bias is a social reality. And a greater danger to society than crime committed because of personal reasons.

“All violence is atrocious but it seems this lessens the charge of an act of violence against a random individual vs. a targeted one, makes one more significant instead of realizing that both are horrible.”

No. Not all violence is the same. There are acts of violence that are far more significant and dangerous than others. A while back in the Chicago burbs some idiots killed 12-odd people in a Browns Chicken restaurant. And a bit back you had CASH (Chicago area skin heads) murder a single black man. Which murder is more horrible and which one would I say is more significant? The latter.
Even though it’s only one guy it’s predicated on a social act rather than a single act – even though it’s 12 people, it’s still just interpersonal violence. And one psychopath I can stop with one well placed shot, no matter how fucking crazy he is. Ten psychopaths – all I need is more ammo or more men. A social movement, no, that I can’t kill with bullets or stop at the scene no matter how many guys I have. It requires more effort and more attention from society.
And it should have it because it's a greater threat despite the body count or horror or any other factors.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:02 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am rather leery about laws that allow the government to allow larger punishment just for what someone is thinking, I think from a pragmatic standpoint, hate crimes laws really are justified. They allow the federal government to step in when a certain minority group has crimes committed against them and the local law enforcement fails to act appropriately due to prejudice. It is another line of defense against the tyranny of the majority, and preventing a tyranny of the majority is what separates democracy from mob rule.

Now, this sort of law, one that provides additional punishment for opinion and intent, should be subject to a fair deal of scrutiny before it is passed. But I cannot envisage a situation where the potential benefits, a society where you are safer and freer to be who you are, don't vastly outweigh the potential for abuse.
posted by Zalzidrax at 4:03 PM on October 29, 2009


They allow the federal government to step in when a certain minority group has crimes committed against them and the local law enforcement fails to act appropriately due to prejudice.

And now also applies to crimes committed against those in the majority, such as men, straights, etc., if those crimes are a result of targetting the individual because of their gender, sexual orientation, etc.
posted by ericb at 4:08 PM on October 29, 2009


I'm just curious, for those of you who are afraid this criminalizes thoughts, in what specific instance do you see this law being misused or abused? Can you give me a specific example? It'd be even better if you could point out an incident that's actually happened, for example someone who has been wrongly prosecuted for a hate crime (but was correctly prosecuted for the underlying crime, e.g. assault).
posted by desjardins at 4:15 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


They feel threatened, because they want to live in a society where inflicting violence on gay people is still somehow right and justified. They want to live in a world where the local law can look the other way while violence against GLBT folks persists, because in a God-fearing America that's how it really should be, right?

That's not necessarily true.

They might also feel threatened because they habitually beat the shit out of random people and are worried that if they accidentally beat the shit out of a gay man or black man, suddenly it's like totally a big deal.

I am rather leery about laws that allow the government to allow larger punishment just for what someone is thinking

As has been pointed out here more than once, the difference between manslaughter and murder is what you were thinking when you did it, and what you were thinking when you did it is a vital component of nearly any conviction.

If you really believe that the government should not be allowed to more harshly punish based on the mental state of the criminal, you must believe that accidentally killing someone should be punished exactly as severely as carefully planning the murder of someone.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:25 PM on October 29, 2009


There are many hate crimes laws on the books. They have not in any way reduced the amount of hate. Hate crimes are pointless because they don't alter the social dynamic in any positive way.

And we know this how? Do we have the statistics that can unequivocally show the lack of impact by hate crime laws?

Regardless, the problem here is that you are looking at it too narrowly. There are many reasons why laws are passed. One such reason is the protection of society. If we judge the social harm done by a hate crime (against a whole community) to be greater than mere harm against the specific victim, it makes sense to punish the perpetrator more severely, and so to lessen the chance of the perpetrator committing more such crimes. If the bad guy is sitting in prison an extra 10 years on account of the "hate", that's 10 fewer years in which he can go out and harm society again. And strangely enough, that might just mean that - wait for it - with fewer crimes committed, you are altering the social dynamic in a very positive way. I for one prefer living in a society where there are fewer assaults based on hate - whether I myself am the target of the hate or not... it affects everyone.
posted by VikingSword at 4:31 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you really believe that the government should not be allowed to more harshly punish based on the mental state of the criminal, you must believe that accidentally killing someone should be punished exactly as severely as carefully planning the murder of someone.

Belief. Intent. Motive. Motivation. Mindset. These are all different words because they are different concepts. It's intellectually dishonest to claim otherwise. Try not to conflate them, mmkay?
posted by jock@law at 4:57 PM on October 29, 2009


As has been pointed out here more than once, the difference between manslaughter and murder is what you were thinking when you did it, and what you were thinking when you did it is a vital component of nearly any conviction.

I'm reluctantly in favor of hate crime laws because I feel the thing they protect against is worse than the potential for abuse. But I do see a difference between presumed intent in manslaughter vs murder and presumed intent in hate crime laws. The former presumes something about the mental state of the accused, where the latter presumes a lot of things about both the mental state of the accused and the theoretical mental states of theoretical victims of the crime: not the victim who was assaulted/raped/murdered but the theoretical victims of the terrorizing aspect of the crime. That's getting into some awful fuzzy territory for many specific crimes even when the overall effect is toxic (cf street harassment of women by catcalls: most single events aren't so awful, necessarily; it's the cumulative effect that's so soul-destroying).

Having said that, I support federal hate crimes laws because I've seen enough crimes not only not be prosecuted to the extent of the law, but treated as though the hate (mental state of the accused) was a mitigating factor in committing the crime. See, for instance, any "gay panic" defense. In any legal environment in which "that gay man propositioned my client" is an excuse for murder, how can citizens expect that even obvious terroristic crimes against gay people would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law?

You can think a lot of mental-state gradations are dubious--I, for one, think the operating assumptions behind treating a "crime of passion" as a lesser homicide are suspicious--but still come out feeling that hate crimes laws are the better of two not particularly great things.
posted by immlass at 5:03 PM on October 29, 2009


delmoi: The opposition to hate crimes legislation is idiotic. If things are already illegal why not make them super-illegal?

This reasoning behind this comment is interesting because it outlines precisely my issue with hate crimes legislation as a subset of abusive (and abused) legal strategies. Our justice system is, in practice, tailored around an efficiency of what one might call the super-illegal. We could not have accomplished the incarceration of 2.5 million people, give or take, without it.

Let that number sink in, because in this case the footnote, the asterisk, is worse than its antecedent: less than ten percent of them were actually tried before a jury of their peers. I'll repeat this: around ninety percent of the 2.5 million people we're imprisoning right now did not in fact receive a trial by jury. Their trial was a tape machine and an interrogation room; their due process unwound in the span it takes a cup of coffee to cool. Witnesses were not produced. Exhibit A was not cross-examined. No public defender raised a shadow of reasonable doubt to shield them from the law in its full force. The TV-canonized rite of the voir dire did not play out. Twelve of us did not assemble to weigh what all of us would do.

The system right now is plea bargain, with a few cases being tried. Those few cases being tried set the standard for everybody in determining what to do with the 95 percent, 96 percent of the plea bargain cases. That's exactly right. I wish it were just the opposite, but it will never be. [Frontline, The Plea, PBS.org]

A guilty plea is a tricky thing: it is one stoke of pen that cuts away centuries of legal debate. Once you surrender to either the power of conscience, or to that of the state, what happens to you today is not grossly different from what happened to you centuries ago. We may kill you as a sort of public catharsis, or let you disappear in secret, or whatever, but the consequences of guilt are a mutual shame to both the criminal, and to the society who becomes his tormentor. We've thus set the bulwark of our philosophy and our thought against ever coming to such a grave determination by mistake:

"Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer," 2 says English jurist William Blackstone. The ratio 10:1 has become known as the "Blackstone ratio." 3 Lawyers "are indoctrinated" with it "early in law school." 4 "Schoolboys are taught" it. 5 In the fantasies of legal academics, jurors think about Blackstone routinely. 6 [N guilty men, law.ucla]

Scholarly abstractions, perhaps, but in each of the measures I mentioned above - cross-examination, an impartial jury, a public and transparent process - we are demonstrating that we care what guilt actually is. Guilt, as much as we can make it, is a finding of actual fact, weighed before a thorough and open examination. It is not merely a matter of our agreement on a fact so much as the purity of the process by which we agree. If guilt is a plea, it certainly shouldn't be the same kind of plea as uncle.

But over ninety percent of our guilty men willingly forgo a free, philosophically sound process that should set at least some of them free - better N guilty men, after all. It's as if we're observing the Blackstone ratio in reverse. Why?

What's the upside? Efficiency?
Sure. We have between 30 and 40 cases in our court on our docket every single day, and we're an average docket. We have 15 new cases this morning. If you spent a month on every case, again, these people would not have their case come up for years down the road. [...] That's not going to happen in a metropolitan area. You'd have to spend billions of dollars to have that many courts, to have that much time. Just not going to happen.
[Frontline]

Chief Judge William G.Young of the Federal District Court in Massachusetts, for example, recently filed an opinion that was refreshingly candid about what is happening in the modern criminal justice system: Evidence of sentencing disparity visited on those who exercise their Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury is today stark, brutal, and incontrovertible.… Today, under the Sentencing Guidelines regime with its vast shift of power to the Executive, that disparity has widened to an incredible 500 percent. As a practical matter this means, as between two similarly situated defendants, that if the one who pleads and cooperates gets a four-year sentence, then the guideline sentence for the one who exercises his right to trial by jury and is convicted will be 20 years. Not surprisingly, such a disparity imposes an extraordinary burden on the free exercise of the right to an adjudication of guilt by one’s peers. Criminal trial rates in the United States and in this District are plummeting due to the simple fact that today we punish people— punish them severely — simply for going to trial. It is the sheerest sophistry to pretend otherwise. [Cato, The Case Against Plea Bargaining, PDF]

It is increasingly difficult to break just a single law of any significance. Our laws are as interdependent and as piled-high as the avalanches of our urban sprawl, as crowded and clashing as the public spaces they must oversee and set to order. Possessing a certain amount of a single drug is one law, sure, but it courts possession with the intent to distribute it to those around you. Doing so while standing on a city block is almost certainly possession at a criminal distance from a church, and from a high school. The cleaners you stockpile under your tenement sink - because slumlords don't spend on plumbing - might be the reagents needed for running a lab. Are you willing to plea, or are you looking at a chance of fifteen years, with all the consequences?

Charge stacking is our standard prosecutorial strategy. It gives our law enforcement enough discretion in applying redundant laws, and enough leeway in mandatory sentencing, to win by backroom plea so often as to put our criminal courts in danger of obsolescence. We've simply replaced the judge with the police, and with whatever classifications of super-illegal they require to make their jobs - and the determination of guilt - as efficient as possible. We just don't know what guilt actually is anymore.

The intentions behind some of these complexes of law seem reasonable - keeping the externalities of drugs away from schools and churches, keeping the externalities of violent crime at arms' length from political speech. But this trend of addressing social problems by creating new classes and subclasses of criminal has been disastrous.
posted by kid ichorous at 5:23 PM on October 29, 2009 [23 favorites]


Thanks to kid ichorous for providing one of the few reasonable objections. Something to think about.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:30 PM on October 29, 2009


Random violence could happen to almost anyone, but violence that targets an individual because of their race, sexuality, gender identity and other attributes doesn't just damage that individual, it increases fear and limits the movements of others in the same group who may rightfully fear that they are also walking targets.
i see two problems with this. firstly, not all groups are equally protected. if someone is targeting miami dolphin fans the offenders don't get increased punishment.

secondly, the fear cost is the product of the number of people in the group and the average cost to the individual. i can agree the average cost to the individual increases as the size of the group decreases. however, it is not clear to me that the product increases. i think if the costs are worrying and being scared then i think larger groups would have more aggregate costs because people are risk averse. however, if the main cost is switching cost (everyone in the group is in a prisoners dilemma) where people actually change their behaviour then some larger groups wouldn't face these costs because there wouldn't be enough fear to make them change their behaviour.
posted by drscroogemcduck at 6:18 PM on October 29, 2009


Belief. Intent. Motive. Motivation. Mindset. These are all different words because they are different concepts. It's intellectually dishonest to claim otherwise. Try not to conflate them, mmkay?

So don't.

Because the law clearly isn't about belief, motivation, or mindset. It's about acts. As enacted in 1969, it was specifically about violence against people exercising their civil rights to attend integrated schools or vote without restriction. And in that decade, there was little question as to exactly what white supremacists were up to. It's not about the identity, status, or beliefs of the defendant, it's about the circumstances of the crime its self.

We have no problem in calling John Dillinger a bank robber for going into banks with guns and demanding money.

So why do we have a problem in calling James von Brunn an antisemite for charging into a Holocaust museum with a rifle?

We have no problem saying that Ted Bundy was a sexual predator who preyed on women after gaining their trust.

So why can't we say the same of Stephen Scarsbrough or Allen Andrade?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:19 PM on October 29, 2009


So why can't we say the same of Stephen Scarsbrough or Allen Andrade?

Because their victims were not straight.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:28 PM on October 29, 2009


kid ichorous: I really respect what you wrote, and do agree that plea bargaining and charge stacking are a problem in our courts.

I just find it sad that all of your examples listed have to do with drug charges and nothing to do with the matter at hand, which is crimes against persons or property carried out under the banner of intimidating a class of people. Are there examples which pertain to this matter, or is charge stacking mostly a documented and examined problem when it comes to drug policy in the US? I really don't find the two concepts to be congruent, even though they both have to do with the US justice system.
posted by hippybear at 6:34 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


But over ninety percent of our guilty men willingly forgo a free, philosophically sound process that should set at least some of them free - better N guilty men, after all. It's as if we're observing the Blackstone ratio in reverse. Why?

[...]

As a practical matter this means, as between two similarly situated defendants, that if the one who pleads and cooperates gets a four-year sentence, then the guideline sentence for the one who exercises his right to trial by jury and is convicted will be 20 years. Not surprisingly, such a disparity imposes an extraordinary burden on the free exercise of the right to an adjudication of guilt by one’s peers.

Hmm. This to me indicates a problem with the trial environment, not sentence disparity so much. Here's a thought experiment: imagine that you are very confident that you can get a fair trial.

1)If you are innocent - then trusting in the fairness of the trial, you take it. Sentence disparity of plea bargaining vs trail doesn't enter here. ++ TRIAL

2)You are guilty - you trust in the fairness of the trial. The risk that you may be found guilty is too high. ++PLEA

Now imagine you have little confidence in the fairness of the process.

3)You are innocent. Yet you don't trust you'll get a fair trial. ++PLEA

4)You are guilty. You don't trust you'll get a fair trial. ++PLEA

It seems to me that if we fixed the problem with the fairness of the trial process we'd be able to drastically cut down on the number of pleas from innocent people. And a common perception of trails being fair would also cut down on sentence disparity it seems to me. Of course, there would still be problems with bad luck and risk even if you get a fair trial, and then you may take the plea instead of risking huge penalties. But I'd argue that fixing the trial process is much more likely to lead to good results than trying to rely on the fairness of the police.

Bottom line: work to make the trial system more fair - that's upstream from trying to fix the problem by watering down laws or changing laws to accommodate a broken trail system.
posted by VikingSword at 6:38 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


VikingSword: The problem is that many people don't know enough about the trial system. Our civics education is woefully inadequate in preparing people to trust in the "philosophical[] sound[ness]" of the system. It's not necessarily that people have little confidence because they view trial as unfair to the accused. However, given an unfamiliar territory and being set opposite experts in the field, it's a difficult valuation for defendants to make.
posted by jock@law at 6:55 PM on October 29, 2009


The problem is that many people don't know enough about the trial system. Our civics education is woefully inadequate in preparing people to trust in the "philosophical[] sound[ness]" of the system. It's not necessarily that people have little confidence because they view trial as unfair to the accused. However, given an unfamiliar territory and being set opposite experts in the field, it's a difficult valuation for defendants to make.

I thought that's why defense lawyers exist. And if you cannot afford one, one will be provided for you. Then he/she can explain to you all about choices and options and the trial system.

And I still don't understand how this relates to hate crime laws. If the problem is sentence disparity, then address that, and don't abolish classes of crimes. It would be pretty absurd to say: "let's just have all unlawful killings be treated as involuntary manslaughter, because if you introduce degrees of murder, you give the prosecutors too much power to stack charges and sentence disparities will result and x, y, z". Or is it only a good argument when gay people are the victims of hate crimes?

I'd much rather see us trying to put resources into a better trail environment and more money to hire qualified public defenders. If those work well, we can mitigate a lot of problems with poor police work.
posted by VikingSword at 7:07 PM on October 29, 2009


Only $680,000,000,000? I'm skeered. What if the North Koreans invade? Obama is soft on defense.
posted by Tashtego at 7:41 PM on October 29, 2009


Belief. Intent. Motive. Motivation. Mindset. These are all different words because they are different concepts. It's intellectually dishonest to claim otherwise.

If you bothered to read what I was replying to, or even just look at the quote right there in my own comment, you'd see that the claim I was addressing was:

"I am rather leery about laws that allow the government to allow larger punishment just for what someone is thinking"

It is plainly the case that if you run over someone and you can establish you were thinking "Man I'm tired I wonder if that copy of Starman came from Netflix todHOLY SHIT," you will not be punished as severely as if the prosecutor can convince the jury you were thinking "I want to run you over and kill you YAY!."

The idea that the State does not and should not vary the intensity of the punishment on the basis of "what someone is thinking" is, on its face, just incorrect. The State does so in many, many crimes, and for the State to fail to take into account "what people are thinking" would result in what normal people would consider monstrous injustices.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:45 PM on October 29, 2009


Viking, I was addressing your point narrowly; I disagreed with the idea that making trials more fair will significantly affect plea rates in the absence of suitable education about the trial process. I am not arguing that the tendency to plea is related to hate crimes.

Also, it is a falsity to believe that defense lawyers are provided for those who cannot afford one. The right to counsel provided by the state only exists in the face of some likelihood (I don't recall the standard off the top of my head) of jail. There are probably few jurisdictions, for example, where you would be given a defense lawyer for a first-time misdemeanor marijuana possession charge.

The phenomenon of increasing penalties for states of mind -- as opposed to decreasing penalties for lack of intent -- is a new phenomenon. There is no historical analog to our sentencing guidelines and hate crimes. It's unexplored territory in the law, and it's unclear that our grasp of human psychology is up to the challenge. Psychological "[]cause" is a much more nebulous concept than intent. Intent can be strongly implied by attendant circumstances; it is incredibly difficult to strap on a holster, load a sidearm, holster the sidearm under your coat, walk to the victim's house, and shoot the victim ... all by accident. How do you measure whether a person hates a class of people? How do you prove that? How do you ensure that the PC police don't get a chance to mess up someone's life forever in situations that do not call for it? These kinds of things are incredibly different. I feel that some (e.g., ROU_Xenophobe) are unconvinced as to the meaningfulness of the distinction, but to me the difference seems so fundamental as to be unquestionable.

A narrowly-tailored anti-targeting law I could possibly support. "It shall be a felony punishable by not less than three and not more than thirty years in prison to commit any violent crime against another if extrinsic evidence of an admission by the defendant shows beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim was targeted because of an immutable physical, cognitive, or psychological characteristic or because of the victim's exercise of a fundamental right recognized under U.S. law." Something like that.

But the bill just says "because." If you do it because he was black or she was gay or they were Israeli. How much because? There is no guide. Now, I'm not an expert on hate crimes jurisprudence in the United States. Maybe there's a significant body of law on "because." But there's significant danger of speculation on the part of the factfinder, of innuendo on the part of the prosecutor, and of overbreadth in the reading of cause.

Andy Dufresne would be guilty under certain literal readings of this bill. But for the Sisters being homosexual, they would not have raped him. But for their rapes and attempted rapes, he would not have beat them. Their sexuality is an actual cause of his violence toward them. Now the possibility that it will be read in that way is infinitesimally low, but it demonstrates the lengths to which the current language could be applied. I am immensely skeptical that we can assure that somewhat more plausible injustices don't occur.
posted by jock@law at 8:12 PM on October 29, 2009


I think it is shitty to kill people because they are homeless. Should homeless people be protected by hate crimes legislation?

I think it is shitty to kill people because they are members of a certain political party. Should people who are members of political parties be protected by hate crimes legislation?

I think it is shitty to kill people because they are child molesters. Should child molesters be protected by hate crimes legislation?

I think it is shitty to kill people because the are convicted felons. Should convicted felons be protected by hate crimes legislation?

I think it is shitty to kill someone because he has a certain position on abortion. Should people who have a certain position on abortion be protected by hate crimes legislation?

I think it is shitty to kill people because they are small and weak. Should small and weak people be protected by hate crimes legislation?

I think it is shitty to kill people because they are meat-eaters. Should meat-eaters be protected by hate crimes legislation?

I think it is shitty to kill someone because he roots for a certain sports team. Should people who root for certain sports teams be protected by hate crimes legislation?

I think it is shitty to kill someone because that person slept with your spouse. Should people who commit adultery be protected by hate crimes legislation?

I think it is shitty to kill someone because they belong to a different gang. Should people who are in gangs be protected by hate crimes legislation?

Why are some groups of people deserving of special victim status, but others are not? What is the number of murders or assaults that have to occur to a group to grant them special victim status?
posted by flarbuse at 8:22 PM on October 29, 2009


Or is it only a good argument when gay people are the victims of hate crimes?
Or black people. Keep in mind that the idea of classifying 'crimes against members of groups' differently than 'crimes against individuals' has been demonized by conservatives for decades.
If you do it because he was black or she was gay or they were Israeli. How much because? There is no guide. Now, I'm not an expert on hate crimes jurisprudence in the United States. Maybe there's a significant body of law on "because." But there's significant danger of speculation on the part of the factfinder, of innuendo on the part of the prosecutor, and of overbreadth in the reading of cause.
As others have noted, this is a problem with the question of motive. That doesn't dissuade us from considering motive in crimes -- unless the victim of the crime is black or gay. Then, of course, it's time to harumph about fairness and so on and so forth.

Frankly, this little bit of selective theater got old a long, long time ago.
posted by verb at 8:22 PM on October 29, 2009


But the bill just says "because." If you do it because he was black or she was gay or they were Israeli. How much because? There is no guide. Now, I'm not an expert on hate crimes jurisprudence in the United States. Maybe there's a significant body of law on "because." But there's significant danger of speculation on the part of the factfinder, of innuendo on the part of the prosecutor, and of overbreadth in the reading of cause.

Surely in the 40 years of case law which have accumulated since the bill which was amended with this passage was passed, we have some amount of evidence as to whether the 1969 law has been abused by prosecutors or not... It's not like this is a NEW law, simply an expanded older one.
posted by hippybear at 8:24 PM on October 29, 2009


Why are some groups of people deserving of special victim status, but others are not? What is the number of murders or assaults that have to occur to a group to grant them special victim status?
It's almost like you haven't paid any attention to the legislation, the thread, or the history of hate crimes in the united states.
posted by verb at 8:27 PM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


flarbuse: with the exception of homelessness, every category you list is something the person in the non-protected category CHOSE for themselves. If you read the list of protected groups in the hate crimes bill, you will see that all those are categories of things that a person is born into. (One could argue this about transgendered, but I'm sure that any trans-people will point out that they were born in the wrong gender and are seeking to rectify that problem.)
posted by hippybear at 8:28 PM on October 29, 2009


Frankly, this little bit of selective theater got old a long, long time ago.

Motive is not an element of other crimes; it's a factor to consider as probative of intent. Motive is legally insufficient. A verdict that finds mens rea based on motive alone will be overturned on appeal. The law does not traditionally allow motive to be the determining criterion upon which additional punishment turns. Whether you disagree with this, or ignore this, or don't care about this is irrelevant. It is a meaningful difference, and your dismissiveness of it is intellectually untenable.
posted by jock@law at 8:32 PM on October 29, 2009


with the exception of homelessness, every category [flarbuse] list[ed] is something the person in the non-protected category CHOSE for themselves

that is false
posted by jock@law at 8:36 PM on October 29, 2009


Let's punish people for their conduct, not what we suspect is going on inside of their head.

Which is why sentences for involuntary manslaughter should be exactly the same as sentences for first degree murder.
posted by xxxxxxxxx at 1:25 PM on October 29 [16 favorites +] [!]


This is a terrible comparison. The difference between involuntary manslaughter and first degree murder is whether the killing was intentional. That is to say if it was accidental, then it is involuntary manslaughter. If it was intentional, then it is murder. It doesn't matter why someone is killed, it only matters whether it was done on purpose.

Hate crimes are not about whether someone meant to do it. They are not about intent. Hate crimes require that the person meant to do it. What makes them different is that they are about why someone killed someone. Again, there is no relationship between the motive involved in hate crimes and the intent involved in murder.

Watching the above comment keep getting favorited was like listening to the laugh track of bad sitcom.
posted by flarbuse at 8:38 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


yes, jock... it is false. excuse me. "small and weak" is also a non-chosen category. Happy now? I note you didn't actually address the difference between chosen factors for a person and inborn ones, and which might be eligible for being a class mentioned in hate crimes legislation. Perhaps taking me to task for missing that one item in flarbuse's list is the only point you can make in response.
posted by hippybear at 8:39 PM on October 29, 2009


with the exception of homelessness, every category [flarbuse] list[ed] is something the person in the non-protected category CHOSE for themselves

that is false
You're right. Some people are just inherently evil, and can't be blamed for the sports team they root for.
posted by verb at 8:42 PM on October 29, 2009


They forgot left-handed albino Eskimos. AGAIN.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:42 PM on October 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hate crimes are not about whether someone meant to do it. They are not about intent. Hate crimes require that the person meant to do it. What makes them different is that they are about why someone killed someone. Again, there is no relationship between the motive involved in hate crimes and the intent involved in murder.

Have you never heard of the "intent to distribute" laws attached to drug possession?

Does the law not also draw a distinction between second-degree murder and first degree premeditated murder, where both of them are intent to kill but one is done in a fit of passion while the other is planned?
posted by hippybear at 8:44 PM on October 29, 2009


flarbuse: with the exception of homelessness, every category you list is something the person in the non-protected category CHOSE for themselves. If you read the list of protected groups in the hate crimes bill, you will see that all those are categories of things that a person is born into

Being small and weak is also not a choice.

And gender identity (as you pointed out) and religion are choices.

In 2006, 155 homeless people were murdered by non-homeless people. That same year, 76 people in traditional hate crimes groups were murdered.

Looks like someone needs a better lobbying group.
posted by flarbuse at 8:46 PM on October 29, 2009


I note you didn't actually address the difference between chosen factors for a person and inborn ones

Because I don't view the distinction as relevant to the conversation. The difference between things that are chosen and things which are not is a philosophical and perhaps anthropological debate. It does not provide a justiciable standard, and is therefore an inadequate basis on which to build law.
posted by jock@law at 8:48 PM on October 29, 2009


It does not provide a justiciable standard, and is therefore an inadequate basis on which to build law.

And yet, the law has been built, and stands on the books. And has for 40 years. Deny reality much?
posted by hippybear at 8:50 PM on October 29, 2009


And yet, the law has been built, and stands on the books. And has for 40 years. Deny reality much?

that is false. protected classes which are, if nothing else, closer to the chosen side (e.g., religion) are no less protected than protected classes which are indisputably phenotypically predicated (e.g., race). the distinction of which you speak does not exist at law.
posted by jock@law at 8:53 PM on October 29, 2009


I see we're having two different conversations. I'll leave the one I'm having and let you have the one you're having with someone else. enjoy!
posted by hippybear at 8:57 PM on October 29, 2009


Have you never heard of the "intent to distribute" laws attached to drug possession?

I have. In fact, just today I represented someone charged with that offense. I probably have ten or so clients right now charged with that very offense.

I find the offense to be idiotic. DAs will often reduce the charge to possession because they know it is difficult to prove. When I go to trial on such a case, I generally say something like this to the jury during closing:

"The State would have you believe that the fact that my client had seven individually-wrapped baggies of heroin that he was going to sell them, because no one would ever buy more of a product than they were going to use at one time. You all buy your toilet paper one roll at a time, right? You all realize that you can't re-sell those rolls of toilet paper without being licensed to do so, right? So you never buy those multi-roll packages, do you? I mean, how could you use twelve rolls of toilet paper in one day? What's that? You buy them in bulk because it is more convenient to do so? You think maybe it would be more convenient to buy your drugs in bulk, too? It's illegal to buy drugs, right? So why commit a crime every day when you can commit a crime just once a week. It would decrease your chances of getting caught, wouldn't it?"

That aside, the intent involved in Possession With Intent to Sell is about intent. It is not about motive.
posted by flarbuse at 8:58 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Because I don't view the distinction as relevant to the conversation.
On this note, you are most likely correct. However, it is undeniable that hate crime legislation exists to address a particular kind of crime: acts that target a group for intimidation by attacking a representative member of that group.

Perhaps you believe that existing legislation does not achieve that end. Perhaps you believe that it does not cover enough groups explicitly. I have no idea. But it is difficult to come away from the discussion in this thread without thinking that opponents of hate crime legislation just really, really don't like the entire idea of protecting groups from intimidation.

Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps I have misread the participants in this thread. Perhaps you could explain how you think those acts of group intimidation could be punished or prevented. There is, after all, a pretty long history at this point of hate crime laws being used effectively to that end.
posted by verb at 8:58 PM on October 29, 2009


Why are some groups of people deserving of special victim status, but others are not? What is the number of murders or assaults that have to occur to a group to grant them special victim status?

The point is that certain groups of people in our country--blacks, homosexuals, transsexuals, women, for a few examples, I'm sure you can think of some more--have tended to be targets more than others--say, white men. Just as a place to start from, let's agree that this is true, and arguing against this means you are a shithead. If you disagree, go hang out on Stormfront or something, not Metafilter, please?

Following from that, I see nothing wrong with trying to right this imbalance by having the government--meant to represent the will of the people--state, clearly, in law, as many ways as possible, that violent behavior towards these groups of people who have been victims of violence historically is not acceptable. This means we, as a society, truly want all people to be treated equally, and we will not tolerate some people having lower status--and your life is the most basic human right, no?--by having it seem okay to take their rights away. This is what people have been talking about when they say hate crimes terrorize people: they terrorize a group of people regardless of whether the people doing the hate crime were thinking strategically about that or not.

Anyways, it's the same thing as civil rights legislation, in terms of what it represents, I think, and I don't really understand what people are fighting against when they argue against this. Maybe kid ichorous has got a point, although I think it's oblique, but the rest of you that are against this seem to just be trying to talk around the fact that you think on some level it's okay for gay people (for example) to feel scared to walk down the street at night.

I want this legislation because I want everyone to feel safe, number one: we can address the other stuff too but safety is basic. Pretending as though some people are getting special treatment because of hate crime legislation, or pretending it's going to have some sort of strange thought-crime effect on our society is disingenous and pathetic. But if you have some criticism that actually is about how this might make gay people (again, for example) feel less safe because of this legislation, then I'm all ears. Otherwise, what are you really afraid of, I don't get it? I'm really far more worried that minority groups are going to continue to have their members killed, because that is what has historically happened.

Can we stop arguing about this yet?
posted by dubitable at 8:58 PM on October 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


In 2006, 155 homeless people were murdered by non-homeless people. That same year, 76 people in traditional hate crimes groups were murdered.

Looks like someone needs a better lobbying group.


I don't know if you were being facetious or not, but I'll take you at face value: homeless people do need a better lobbying group, you're right. They deserve better treatment.
posted by dubitable at 9:02 PM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


The difference between things that are chosen and things which are not is a philosophical and perhaps anthropological debate. It does not provide a justiciable standard, and is therefore an inadequate basis on which to build law.

I'm sorry but that's just wrong. One of the elements of a suspect or quasi-suspect classification is the immutability of the characteristic upon which the classification is made. To wit: "Moreover, since sex, like race and national origin, is an immutable characteristic determined solely by the accident of birth, the imposition of special disabilities upon the members of a particular sex because of their sex would seem to violate 'the basic concept of our system that legal burdens should bear some relationship to individual responsibility.' Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677 (1973) (citation omitted).
posted by jedicus at 9:05 PM on October 29, 2009


Awesome. We've reached the point in the conversation where an opponent of hate-crime legislation messages me privately and threatens to start flagging my comments if I don't stop "abusing" people.

The irony is thick. It could be cut with a knife.
posted by verb at 9:12 PM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I just find it sad that all of your examples listed have to do with drug charges and nothing to do with the matter at hand, which is crimes against persons or property carried out under the banner of intimidating a class of people. Are there examples which pertain to this matter, or is charge stacking mostly a documented and examined problem when it comes to drug policy in the US?

That's fair. It has been far and away a worse problem in the layered, weird interlockings of three decades worth of drug laws, the ever-Orwellian "sex crime," or when terror, rather than hate, is sounded as the code for violent speech, and billion-dollar programs click into motion over the of content of some kid's krylon blots. I think the main heuristic is that prosecutors are sharp and self-serving enough to use whatever you give them in pursuit of "more convictions," which is the one-dimensional kill count to which crime was reduced whatever day we decided it, too, was a war-on.

But I do think there is a troublesome intersection between US gang culture, which is almost universally fractured along the most primitive of lines - race, region, and unassailable masculinity - and the simple (leftish?) circumference of hate. There are mafia-like gangs that are simply born sua sponte of the conditions to which Whites, Blacks, or other demographics are subjected to in prison; and then there are radical supremacist organizations that form out of the parallel brokenness of our cities and our heartlands. They'll use snatches of the same violent and totemic imagery; but the significance of a prison tattoo has not a thing to do with the same runework on the bicep of a Stormfront goon, who, in turn, is more like a webforum parrot than someone deep into the scary, cult-like Christian Identity or Black Hebrew Israelite territories.

I think we are a people as fascinated by our gang cultures as we are determined not to know of whatever of our flaws or shames bring them into being. In any case, something like Aryan Brotherhood or Black Guerrilla Family being the subjects of hyperbole about various political or racist motives do something of a disservice to this razors' edge upon which we've forced some millions of people to share space. Well, yes, America, your gazillion or so prison gangs are race-centric.

Hmm. This to me indicates a problem with the trial environment, not sentence disparity so much. [...]
3)You are innocent. Yet you don't trust you'll get a fair trial. ++PLEA
4)You are guilty. You don't trust you'll get a fair trial. ++PLEA
It seems to me that if we fixed the problem with the fairness of the trial process we'd be able to drastically cut down on the number of pleas from innocent people.


I do think it's very likely that pumping billions into the judiciary instead of into the executive enforcement of (I think) poor, patchwork legislation would keep most innocent people out of the system, but (even as the judge wistfully remarked in the Frontline piece) I'm not sure that's ever been in the cards? Has the judiciary ever undergone the sort of explosive growth to parallel the executive of late? It seems like we're all about the new, unprecedented agencies to tackle new, unprecedented crimes, and the safeguard is still the same nine legal Nazgul.
posted by kid ichorous at 9:23 PM on October 29, 2009


In 2006, 155 homeless people were murdered by non-homeless people. That same year, 76 people in traditional hate crimes groups were murdered.
This statement has more than a bit of apples-and-oranges packed into it.

First, it conflates 'murder' with 'hate crime.' Are you unfamiliar with the distinction? Burning a cross in someone's yard, for example, is not murder but it is generally accepted to be a hate crime.

Second, "76 people in traditional hate crimes groups were murdered in 2006" implies an artificially narrow definition of the term. 76 black people murdered in 2006? 76 gay men? 76 Jews? Statistically speaking, that's a bit hard to swallow

Finally, it sounds as if you are assuming that every murder with a homeless victim is a hate crime. Should we make that assumption for every murder of a black, gay, or Jewish person? Clearly not. Critics of hate crime legislation often like to claim that this is the case -- that it is an 'extra punishment for attacking a minority' -- but it sounds as if you're smart enough to know that is not the case. That leaves me to assume that you are deliberately muddying the waters. Perhaps I am wrong.
posted by verb at 9:29 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


flarbuse: That aside, the intent involved in Possession With Intent to Sell is about intent. It is not about motive.

It seems to me that for most examples of hate crimes I can think of, they are about intent. Von Brunn's objective or purpose to murder people who support historical remembrance of the Holocaust is clear from the fact that he opened fire at a Holocaust Memorial and Museum. The fact that he was prolific in his antisemitic views is icing on the cake. Benjamin Smith staked out a Korean Methodist Church and opened fire on churchgoers.

Both of these cases speak to a high degree of planning and premeditation, in spite of the fact that neither of them either had a prior relationship with their victims as individuals.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:10 PM on October 29, 2009


The law is very, very important to me. I am a criminal defense attorney. I deal with existing criminal laws in my state that sometimes treat a group of people differently than another. Almost without exception, I think they are bad laws with the potential for abuse. It is quite common to see these laws get abused.

Let's say Joe is charged with killing Dan. It is decided that Dan is a member of a protected group of class of people. Joe winds up being charged with a hate crime. Let's say that Joe is looking at 25 years if he is found guilty of murder. Joe is looking at 35 years or the death penalty if he is found guilty of hate crimes murder (I am making up these sentences to illustrate a point).

Now lets' suppose Joe has a pretty good case. Joe has a decent shot at being found not guilty at trial. Joe is 25 years old. If there were no hate crimes legislation, Joe would be looking at a 25 years or freedom. But that is not the case. Instead, Joe is looking at 35 years/death penalty or 25 years (if the jury finds him guilty of murder, but not a hate crime). The DA then offers him 20-25 years to take a plea to murder. They use the Hate Crimes sentencing enhancement as an incentive to get him to try to get him to plead guilty because they know they have a tough case. Joe winds up taking the 20-25 because he doesn't want to risk the 35/death penalty possibility. But for the Hate Crimes enhancement, Joe would have taken the case to trial.

I am sure plenty of you see no problem with that. I do. It is just another way for the State to bully defendants into taking pleas. That is a big, big problem. In my state, we have a Habitual Felon statute. If you have attained Habitual Felon status, then you can be charged with being an Habitual Felon. That means if you get charged with Possession of Cocaine, the State can also charge you with being an Habitual Felon. If you are found guilty of Possession of Cocaine, maybe you are looking at 8-10 months. But you are an Habitual Felon, you will get 8-10 years. How many people do you think try their case under those circumstances? The DA offers to dismiss the Habitual Felon charge, and people line up to plead guilty to things they didn't do. It is a ridiculous law, and should be done away with.

There is absolutely the same kind of abuse potential (albeit on a smaller scale -- with the stakes possibly higher) with Hate Crimes laws.
posted by flarbuse at 10:13 PM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


The fact that a system is abused is not inherently a condemnation of the system itself. It sounds to me like your issue is with the way plea bargaining works, and that's a valid concern, but that problem is not unique to hate crime legislation, and shouldn't be used to indict hate crime legislation. Murder one is a more serious charge than murder two, and people regularly plead down to murder two, some of whom, I imagine, probably would have been convicted of neither. This doesn't mean we shouldn't distinguish between the two.

I do appreciate that you are arguing for concern that some people might get pushed into pleading for something they're not guilty of. That's a worthwhile thing to be concerned about. I'm rather surprised at how many people here are starting from the assumption that the person who committed the hate crime is, in fact, guilty, but shouldn't be punished any more for it being a hate crime, under the misapprehension that whatever is going on the the villains seedy, murderous heads is their business, and somehow didn't affect the crime at all, or change it at all, and must be protected, b'jeezus.

Hell of a fight to pick, and hell of a side to choose to be on. But thank goodness that the idea of personal liberty is so strong in America that people will wrongly side with it even when it isn't being threatened.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:47 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


flarbuse (and jock@law): I think they are bad laws with the potential for abuse. It is quite common to see these laws get abused. ... Let's say Joe is charged with killing Dan.

No. Lawerly arguments aside, we've had 40 years of experience. You've offered not one example of abuse, and your hypotheticals are worth exactly nothing. There are dozens if not hundreds of hate crime victims. Put up or shut up.
posted by msalt at 11:20 PM on October 29, 2009


It is decided that Dan is a member of a protected group of class of people.

So you're saying that Dan has a sex, or a race, or an ethnicity, or a religion, or a sexual orientation, and he is not like all those normal people who aren't in a protected class who don't have a sex or race or ethnicity or religion or sexual orientation.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:30 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Juding intent between crime-of-passion and pre-meditated planning seems easy enough. Judging "level of hatey-ness" does not, unless you're a novelist.
posted by bardic at 11:44 PM on October 29, 2009


There is no "level of hatey-ness". It is about the specific motivation for the specific offense.

The sudden and total ignorance is grating.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:52 PM on October 29, 2009


Juding intent between crime-of-passion and pre-meditated planning seems easy enough. Judging "level of hatey-ness" does not

Exactly, and that's how it should be! This should NOT be a low-threshold, simple "add-on" sentence. Declaring that someone did something untoward to someone else out of hatred for all those who are somehow similar should NOT be an "easy enough" task. It should be required of the prosecution that they prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a hate crime is what has taken place, and a jury should have to agree with that proof. That should not be a simple task, unless it's like the shooting in the Holocaust Museum where there is a definite trail of writings by the offender. And even then, it would have to be connected well enough by the prosecution to convince a jury, not something which is guaranteed by any stretch.
posted by hippybear at 11:55 PM on October 29, 2009


flarbuse: While I deeply appreciate your professional legal expertise and will certainly assent to your characterization of the current, plea-focused system as "abusive", I have to agree with Astro Zombie that your subsequent posts seem focused on the realities of that system and your quite understandable frustrations with it, not so much with the legislation under discussion. I have a real problem, though, with your hypothetical presented here:

Now lets' suppose Joe has a pretty good case. Joe has a decent shot at being found not guilty at trial. Joe is 25 years old. If there were no hate crimes legislation, Joe would be looking at a 25 years or freedom. But that is not the case. Instead, Joe is looking at 35 years/death penalty or 25 years (if the jury finds him guilty of murder, but not a hate crime). The DA then offers him 20-25 years to take a plea to murder. They use the Hate Crimes sentencing enhancement as an incentive to get him to try to get him to plead guilty because they know they have a tough case. Joe winds up taking the 20-25 because he doesn't want to risk the 35/death penalty possibility. But for the Hate Crimes enhancement, Joe would have taken the case to trial.


Surely, because Joe has "a decent shot at being found not guilty", he is therefore looking at "35 years/death penalty or 25 years (if murder, not hate crime)" or freedom [emphasis obviously mine]. You seem to have left that part of his decision out in your characterization, and I have no idea why. The Hate Crimes enhancement does not by invocation prevent a not-guilty verdict, I don't think, so why should that potential outcome be excluded from his list?

As for your litany of examples from presumably-unprotected groups, some of those are in fact protected under hate crimes legislation (political activists), others should not be inasmuch as they are not legal minority groups deserving protection (child molesters), so I can't help but feel you're not arguing honestly there.
posted by Errant at 1:18 AM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


As a member of a minority group that is disproportionately targeted for violence and contempt by the world at large, I am absolutely astonished to see people comparing violence against these newly-protected groups to hypotheticals.

Violence against people like me is real, and if you are reading this you very likely have no idea what it's like to live under that threat. An old friend of mine was murdered two weeks ago, and damn right the people like her, who to people like her killer are trans before we are people, are living in renewed fear. We lost a friend and we were reminded that the world can take us away, just like that.

Yeah, I probably shouldn't have read this thread.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:39 AM on October 30, 2009 [7 favorites]


markkraft, that was fantastic. I had a vague idea, but...really had no idea how pernicious Sully is.
posted by kittyprecious at 6:07 AM on October 30, 2009


We should discourage all violence, yes? Not say some violence is more bad than others because of motive?

No, targeted violence that has the potential to exacerbate broader social tension, is worse because it has all the impact of the normal kind, but it also contributes to sectarian divides in society.

You know why hate crimes laws are a good idea? Because crimes that contribute to ethnic tension and sectarianism have much farther reaching social consequences than conventional criminal acts.

Hate crimes have a ripple effect--hell, on multiple past occasions, wholesale riots have been triggered by hate crimes! Ordinary crimes don't come with social costs as extreme as hate crimes do. So it makes perfect sense to treat hate crimes differently under the law.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:40 AM on October 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


I used to feel conflicted over hate crimes legislation, feeling as some have expressed here that such laws attempted to criminalize thoughts or beliefs, not just actions, and to say that crimes against one person were worse than the same crimes against another, based on membership in protected classes and some element of the crime linking that membership to the motivation for the crime.

Then I came to realize that "hate crime" as a term is part of the problem. What makes these crimes different is that they are terrorism. It's not that it's inherently worse to kill a black guy than a white guy, or worse to sexually assault a woman who is transsexed than one who is cissexed.

It is that there are crimes that are about punishing, eliminating, sending a message to a community of people who share some characteristic, such as race or religion or gender, to "conform or die" or "don't let the sun set on you in my town." It is about terrorizing a group and sending a message, "We don't want your kind. Get out of my community/society/country/world." And that makes all the difference.
posted by notashroom at 10:35 AM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


“Why are some groups of people deserving of special victim status, but others are not?”
The nature of the crime. If you kill someone because you found them sleeping with your wife, the investigation can end there. You found the guy and your wife in bed. You got angry. You shot the guy. End of story.

Victim is in one gang. You’re in another – again, easy call.

If you kill some guy for apparently no reason, that becomes problematic. What possible reason would you stalk and kill someone who has done no material wrong to you?
So you look at other factors. If the victim happens to be black or jewish say. And you have all sorts of Nazi regalia in your house, you’re a member of a neo-nazi group, you’re on record as saying many racist things – the picture becomes a bit clearer.
Killing homeless folks – that one was a bit of a poser.

Why would a small group of young men set fire to a random person? And then it keeps happening. And as it turns out, the victims were all homeless.

That there would be a trend if nothing else. So how does one treat that sort of crime? A random succession of murders/assaults/torching of people who just so happen to be homeless? Do you prosecute each crime individually as though the group of young men were serial killers?
What then does one say about another small group doing the same thing to homeless people in another area? Pure coincidence the victims were all homeless and many set on fire? If I’m a law enforcement agent should I not pick up a phone maybe and clue some sherriff in some town that hey, I saw you had a homeless guy set on fire last week, we had some of that here – in our case the assailants were thus and so, maybe keep an eye out for that, and maybe some more?
Because maybe that might stop another guy sleeping in an alley getting doused with gas and burned.
Same thing for any group. The objective is not to create a protected class but to reduce the victimization of a class and to prevent social perpetuation of the idea that it’s ok to prey on them. And maybe others they decide they don't like.

“It is just another way for the State to bully defendants into taking pleas. That is a big, big problem.”
It’s why I used to be less comfortable with hate crimes. And philosophically, I agree there is potential for abuse by the state.

And I agree that ‘intent’ can be a grey area – but there are lighter and darker areas of it:
"The State would have you believe that the fact that my client had seven hundred thousand pounds of heroin hidden in cargo containers meant he was going to sell them. You all buy enough toilet paper to fill the hold of a major shipping vessel don’t you? More convenient to buy in bulk…’ etc.

And what changed my resistance to it is the practical applications in the investigation, not once the suspect is caught.

The assumption here by most folks is the guy goes to court and there’s this whole system arrayed against him and so forth – and if you start from that premise you can make a pretty cogent argument.

The problem is getting him into court in the first place for the hate crime. For that you need the possibility of conviction for it, or why even bother getting off your ass to do the investigation? And the investigation is going to take time and money and manpower and other resources that could be better spent on cases that have more likelihood of putting some actual criminal behind bars.

The reason you’d want to put the holocaust shooter in jail longer is because he’s more likely to harm an innocent person – again - (based on an intangible motive like being jewish or whatnot) than some guy who finds his wife in bed with another man and shoots that man.

“No, targeted violence that has the potential to exacerbate broader social tension, is worse because it has all the impact of the normal kind, but it also contributes to sectarian divides in society.
You know why hate crimes laws are a good idea? Because crimes that contribute to ethnic tension and sectarianism have much farther reaching social consequences than conventional criminal acts.”

Can’t favorite this enough.

I have seen this play out on every level from the ground up. And in every case you always have the ‘good Germans’ rationalizing every bit of it. “Oh, he’s a good man, he wouldn’t do that. He just cares. What about what those people did? The government is corrupt. We have to act ourselves.” Blah blah blah.

I’m not talking about the folks here defending civil liberties in general. I’m talking about knowing/having seen people terrorized and doing and saying nothing about it. And it’s happened here plenty of times (the Klan comes first to mind) and it still goes on. (Hell, most people still won’t just pick up a phone if their neighbor is being domestically abused.)
Perhaps they don’t feel they have the right to get involved. Or that it’s bigger than they are, or their scared of retaliation. I don’t know. (there are theories)
But it’s more of a threat to society, and so to them, than some random beating or assault or whatnot.
Even more so because of the social divisions hate crimes exploit and exacerbate. And indeed, the stress it creates in the target community.
Why would I associate with a transgender person in the first place? Much less once my (presumptive) community has rejected them and they’ve been beaten up. Do I really want to line up with someone I have so little in common with? Especially once violence has been done to them?
The Martin Niemoller quote (First they came…)is clichéd, but it’s absolutely true in this discussion because the message in a hate crime is being sent not only to the victim group (or ‘protected’ group) but to everyone else to distance and separate themselves.

You’re not protecting a privileged group, you’re protecting yourself by recognizing our society is dependent on the consensual validation of minority rights. Whether it’s a black person, gay person, homeless person, whatever being attacked – that’s what’s consistently under assault.

And, because it’s the attacker who takes the initiative in determining who’s unacceptable (not the victim or protected group) , it could be you and people like you who are next.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:33 AM on October 30, 2009


*sigh*

You know, I think my next thread is going to be about fluffy bunnies. Everybody likes bunnies, don't they? Very uncontroversial.
posted by zarq at 1:16 PM on October 30, 2009


zarq: um... fluffy bunnies?
posted by hippybear at 1:28 PM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


zarq: um... fluffy bunnies?

*headdesk*
posted by zarq at 1:52 PM on October 30, 2009


Headdesk? A headdesk killed my uncle. I hate headdesks and you're bad and you should feel bad.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:23 PM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Then I came to realize that "hate crime" as a term is part of the problem...

I prefer the term "bias crime" which many use to denote these offenses.
posted by ericb at 9:19 AM on October 31, 2009


Betcha $5 Sullivan finds a way to bitch about Obama relaxing immigration restrictions on HIV+ people.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:20 AM on November 2, 2009


Betcha $5 Sullivan finds a way to bitch about Obama relaxing immigration restrictions on HIV+ people.

Credit where it's due: Sullivan's been downright effusive about Obama ending the HIV travel ban. Of course, it's a policy that affects him personally, so that's maybe not terribly surprising.
posted by EarBucket at 6:38 AM on November 2, 2009


WSJ today: Democrats' Quiet Changes Piling Up
posted by msalt at 11:02 AM on November 2, 2009


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