Who They Are

In the past couple of weeks, a defense appropriations bill was hashed out and finally passed, sending it to President Obama’s desk. He signed it. What irks me about this?

Democrats tacked a completely unrelated piece of legislation onto the bill: an expansion of the federal hate crimes law. The expansion isn’t what you think, either.

Oh, sure, it expands the definition of a “hate crime” to include those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, as well as the disabled. It also includes those with disabilities (because we all know how prevalent hate crimes against the disabled are). An act of Congress that was originally intended to protect racial minorities after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. now includes other groups who largely have few or no genetic indicators.

The reach of this new extension is incredible. It flies in the face of Constitutional protections against double jeopardy by providing an in-road for federal courts to try people a second time for the same crime–both those who were convicted of crimes and those who were acquitted. Janet Reno supported this exact same piece of legislation back in 1998 as a way to “give people the opportunity to have a forum in which justice can be done if it is not done in the state court.”

This is expressly forbidden by the Fifth Amendment: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

The same Constitutional Amendment that says we cannot be required to say anything that would be self-incriminating also forbids the government from coming back and trying us a second time after we’ve been found innocent. The hate crimes legislation that Obama has now signed into law attempts an end-run around the Constitution and it’s been something the Democrats have salivated over since the Clinton Administration. It will have an unprecedented effect on criminal justice.

Here’s how it’ll work. Say two white teenagers attack and savagely beat a Hispanic man (this actually happened in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania). The victim dies two days later of his severe injuries. Police quickly arrest the teenagers on information provided by many witnesses, and the perps all start spilling it. Prosecutors go for the gusto: they charge them with everything they possibly can, including ethnic intimidation. The jury acquits, however, refusing to convict the boys of anything more than simple assault. The perps have been convicted of some charges, acquitted of others, and they’ll be punished.

Not so fast. Now, the new legislation gives the federal government the ability to step in and prosecute a second time.

Congressional powers were supposed to be limited; the States were supposed to be the authorities on prosecuting crimes unless several states were involved, in which case the federal government would have the power to prosecute a string of crimes in one case. This new legislation turns that ideal on its head. Federalism is not supported by the Constitution, but Obama and the Democrats are trying to force it on us. The Morrison decision by the US Supreme Court may have set the precedent, and this legislation may be scrapped after all–or it may not.

The original hate crimes law was protected by the Thirteenth Amendment, which gave the federal government the power to protect freed slaves. This addition, however, is absurd. What is more bothersome, however, is that Democrats have all but crucified Bush for the USA PATRIOT Act, saying that in passing the Act Bush “wiped his ass with the Constitution.” What do you call what Obama is doing?

Janet Reno said that hate crimes were especially deplorable because victims are chosen “based on who they are, not what they’ve done.” This argument is incredible. How many crimes are committed against a person based on what that victim has done? I suppose if my neighbor were to be mugged and beaten it would be because of something he did to piss someone off, right? The woman I talked to who was raped for an hour must have deserved it because of something she did, is that it? No. Hate crimes are no different from any other crime. In the event that I were badly beaten or killed by someone who did so because I was a lesbian, I would want that perp to be charged with actual crimes. I would not want him slapped with hate crimes, because that places my life in value above others, and I’m not worth more than any other law-abiding citizen in society.

The common argument I’ve gotten from some Democrats I know is that hate crimes are committed to terrorize an entire group, and that needs to be stopped. Okay…then let those acts fall under terrorism laws, if it can be proven. Hate crimes laws equal thought crimes laws. Our founders would be mortified.

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4 thoughts on “Who They Are

  1. Disabled people? Oh come on. My disabled father will be livid here. He wants to be treated with fairness like everyone else.

    The only criminals I know who target victims based on who they are include:

    Car Theft Rings
    Burglary Rings

    One of my cousins has gone down for car theft a few times in his life. When he was in the business, specific cars were preferred and stolen. If you drove an old junker car, his car theft ring did not want your car. But if you drove an Honda Accord, watch out.

    Burglary rings that steal for profit target people with property worth stealing. I doubt the folks on the “wrong side of the tracks” have to worry. But the people in the upscale neighborhoods with nice expensive things do.

  2. “Hate crimes are no different from any other crime.”

    Actually, they are entirely different from any other crime. Hate crimes have incredibly specific motivating factors. What I find interesting is that you (seemingly) agree with hate crimes legislation passed to protect minorities, yet have a problem when you are the protected class. If someone was to attack you for no other reason than the fact that you are gay, and did so to send a message to the gay community, and if it can be proven that it was done for that very reason, I don’t see anything wrong with having harsher penalties. Why do you?

    “Hate crimes laws equal thought crimes laws.”

    I totally disagree. There’s no such thing as thought crimes. I’ve already engaged in this same argument on a different thread, but my argument warrants repeating. The act itself is what is being punished, not the thought. We don’t go around prosecuting people for being racist, and we don’t prosecute them for being homophobes. When those thoughts are used as a springboard into violent acts, then I fully believe that it should carry a stiffer penalty.

    Let’s start from scratch. Do you, Mel, believe that the LGBT community is more prone to intolerance, and that said intolerance can and does lead to violent acts?

  3. “Hate crimes have incredibly specific motivating factors.”

    All crimes have specific motivating factors. A group of teenagers stole my dad’s Jeep years ago; it was later found in the desert, out of gas, with the canvas on the top and doors cut off (rather than removed, which would have taken less time). The kids who did it admitted they took it joyriding. That was a specific motivating factor. The guy who broke into my car stole my stereo; he wanted my equipment. That was a specific motivating factor. The thug who rapes a woman has a specific motivating factor–pleasure through dominance. The mugger who shoots the person he’s stealing from doesn’t want his victim to ID him, it’s a specific motivating factor. I don’t see anger and hatred as any different from that, because in each and every case, regardless of motivation, the perp is simply unwilling to control his urge. It’s not that he/she/it/they can’t, it’s that they WON’T.

    “If someone was to attack you for no other reason than the fact that you are gay, and did so to send a message to the gay community, and if it can be proven that it was done for that very reason, I don’t see anything wrong with having harsher penalties. Why do you?”

    Because I don’t see individual “hate” crimes as being a message to the group at large. I’ve dealt with inmates who were convicted of crimes that would now be classified as hate crimes; they’re typically uneducated and very emotional. You’re not going to change that with a stiffer penalty–unless that penalty is death. And at that the death penalty has no teeth unless we’re willing to apply it across the board, without apologies. Harsher penalties don’t make one whit of difference until the perps know how serious we are.

    “The act itself is what is being punished, not the thought.”

    If the act itself is being punished, we wouldn’t be having this debate. The act is the assault, or aggravated assault, or assault with intent, or attempted murder, or murder–adding the hate crime aggravator is nothing more than punishing the thought that was behind it.

    “When those thoughts are used as a springboard into violent acts, then I fully believe that it should carry a stiffer penalty.”

    That argument has been used before, and you’re basically identifying it as a thought crime.

    “Do you, Mel, believe that the LGBT community is more prone to intolerance, and that said intolerance can and does lead to violent acts?”

    I believe that both the GLBT and opposing communities are capable of intolerance and violence. I’ve seen gay people and their supporters become violent, destroy property, and disturb the peace. Now, I must admit, I’ve never seen a gay person beat a straight person half to death, but I have seen fights break out between gay people and straight people in and out of bars. I can tell you that even though those kind of stories never gain much attention, there are a few people whose faces I will never forget who should have made it to the news but never would be because they were gay and too many people would think their actions were justified.

    I am actually against all hate crimes laws, regardless of who they are against; my point in bringing up the Thirteenth Amendment was to point out how the SCOTUS is able to toss out some hate crimes laws and not others.

  4. “Harsher penalties don’t make one whit of difference until the perps know how serious we are.”

    Okay, but wouldn’t the harsher penalties show that we are serious?

    “adding the hate crime aggravator is nothing more than punishing the thought that was behind it.”

    If it’s after the fact, then what’s the harm to us as a society? We have varying penalties for murder, even though the murder itself was the final act. We all know that murders committed in the heat of passion don’t carry as tough a penalty as do those committed while lying in wait, or premeditation. Using your own logic, these are unnecessary hate crimes charges being tacked onto the ultimate, indisputable crime of murder. I’m just curious to know why it’s presumably okay to have these varying degrees of murder charges, but not when it comes to specific classes of people.

    “I believe that both the GLBT and opposing communities are capable of intolerance and violence.”

    Okay, I think what I was getting at was (and I hope you would agree) that the LGBT community is more prone to attack (in addition to ridicule and scorn) than heterosexuals are. And that being undeniably the case, it is my belief that they should be a protected class of people. Just like religion is a protected class, just like being African American is a protected class. All I’m saying is that if we see that an entire class of people is more vulnerable to being accosted, assaulted, or killed, isn’t our duty as a society that protects the weakest among us to make sure that these kinds of things aren’t tolerated, and that the punishment is greater as a means of deterrence? I don’t know all the specifics, but I’m pretty sure that a guy who grabs a baby out of a stroller and hurls it off the top of the Empire State Building is going to receive a far greater punishment than the guy who kills his neighbor for stealing his TV…

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