Monday, January 30, 2012

Hate crimes statute seldom used

I neglected to mention that at the Austin Statesman, Eric Dexheimer last week had a lengthy item in which your correspondent was briefly quoted critiquing Texas' seldom-used hate crimes statute, which has yielded just 10 successful prosecutions since Gov. Perry signed it into law in 2001. "'The law should punish bad actions, not unpopular or ignorant beliefs,' said Scott Henson, who writes the Grits for Breakfast criminal justice blog. 'It's another enhancement passed more out of political posturing than from good public policy or common sense.'"

From Grits' perspective, the hate-crimes statute flew in the face of the concept of equal protection under the law, creating an Animal-Farm type scenario where some are theoretically more equal than others. Of course, the same is true of nearly all "enhancements." E.g., when the livestock industry successfully seeks state-jail felony status for theft of a $35 goat, that means stealing from a protected class gets harsher penalties than stealing from you or me. The same theory underlay Texas' hate-crimes enhancements, and like so many special-interest driven enhancements (how many people are prosecuted for Texas' eleven oyster felonies, after all?), the statute in practice is seldom used.

Besides, aren't nearly all murders hate crimes? (Or at least the ones that aren't part of black-market business transactions?) Is the murderer's grim endeavor or the harm they reap worsened because the perpetrator indulged racist thoughts, or mitigated if they were thinking of unicorns and rainbows while dispatching their victims? I think not. Though it was enacted before this blog began, your correspondent disliked Texas' hate-crimes law at the time it passed and sees nothing to dislodge that view now that history has borne out most of its weaknesses and so few of the benefits touted by its proponents.


Prison Doc said...

Gosh Grits your position sounds downright conservative on this. Your views are as schizophrenic as mine!

Anonymous said...

August 5th, 2011

Milwaukee Police confirmed there were assaults outside the fair.

Witnesses’ accounts claim everything from dozens to hundreds of young black people beating white people as they left State Fair Thursday night.

Authorities have not given official estimates of the number of people involved in the attacks.

“It looked like they were just going after white guys, white people.”

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Prison Doc, not schizophrenic, in fact, "consistent."

4:04, I'm pretty sure there are plenty of other statutes available to charge those folks under.

Texas Maverick said...

Prof. Stuntz makes the argument that laws should broadly define so that judges and juries decide the nature of the crime and the punishment, not the DA. Expanded, enhanced, narrow definitions put those decisions in law enforcement and thus the explosion of plea agreements. The public no longer gets to "hear the facts" and judge the case. Media is fed what the LE side wants the public to know and as the professor's book says, that is the "Collapse of American Justice."

Celtictexan said...

“It looked like they were just going after white guys, white people.”

Don't you know, hate crimes only apply to Whites. Just another tool used in the destruction of Western Civilization. Just ask Eric Holder. He all but admitted it in the voter intimidation case.

Anonymous said...

I think the real reason it's never used by prosecutors is that a prosecutor who tries to use it increases his burden of proof for no benefit other than raising the minumum punishment. If the evidence of racial motivation is strong, the jury would be expected to assess punishment accordingly. If the evidence is weak, why bother trying to prove it if you don't have to? Also, why bind yourself to proving that the crime was racially motivated, when you might want to argue multiple motives?

I'm not sure I see why targeting a person for crime because of his race is necessarily worse than targeting him for any other reason, but regardless of how you feel about it, the hate crimes statute is simply not worth using. Most prosecutors would probably decline to use it even if the evidence supported it.

Anonymous said...

When I'm killed simply because the punk wants my wallet, it's about the money and only effects the rest of the population if the level of fear of crime tends to increase in the local community - primarily due to media making it the led. But if I am lynched because of my race, it is an attack against all of my skin color (as public lynching, for example, was intentionally meant to be) therefore it is an attack against not just me but the entire community. That's the reason for hate crime laws - and as Grits knows the meaning and intent of the laws is not directly related to the common defination of the term.

As for "4:04pm", I always enjoy how some members of the majority "race" - including most of my own family -,Whites being 3/4 of the population, and all but controlling every legislature in the United States, whine about being "victims". Give it a rest. Please.