Exactly What Is A Hate Crime?

Source: : Website: In Chambers…a commonplace book of interesting legal things,http://www.inchambers.us

“Arizona, like a number of states, punishes certain crimes when they are done with hate. For instance, if A, who hates homosexuals, attacks B because B is a homosexual, A may be charged with assault and punished more harshly than he would be if B were not gay.”

“Okay, now what if A attacks B and B is gay, but A did not attack for that reason? Is that attack also a hate crime?”

” There’s a case in New York now that has that issue. Using the internet, three men looking for drugs and money, lured Michael J. Sandy to a secluded place. They chose Mr. Sandy because they thought he might have some money or drugs and would be easy pickings. So they looked for a gay man and picked Mr. Sandy. They did not hate gays or Mr. Sandy; they were just looking for an easy target and they thought a gay man would not put up a fight or report the incident to the police. They beat Sandy, but he escaped and ran onto a highway
where he was hit and killed by a car”

“The three were charged with murder and murder as a hate crime, and the prosecution acknowledged that the defendants has no animus toward gay men or Mr. Sandy. The New York statute, the state argued, doesn’t require an animus; all that is necessary is that the defendant pick his target ‘in whole or in substantial part because of a belief or perception regarding the race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation of a person.’ ”

“As an article in the New York Times on June 26 (by Clyde Haberman) pointed out, if this is true, then someone who mugs an old woman because he thinks she will be an easy mug has committed a hate crime, or a burglar who goes after an illegal immigrant because he believes he won’t tell the police has also committed a hate crime. And I guess that, by that standard, any man who has illegal intercourse with a woman has committed a hate crime. Is this what legislatures had in mind? If not, then what is it they had in mind? At least in New York, there is a good chance that the guy who mugs an old woman commits a hate crime because he’s
formed a belief about her age – she was so old she couldn’t resist.”

“Hate isn’t hard to define. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th Ed.) states it pretty simply and clearly: ‘To feel hostility or animosity toward…To detest.’ Unfortunately, the New York statute doesn’t say that – perhaps it should.”

“The New York Times article ends on a salutary note: “Slippery slopes. They are what happens, some say, when the law does not let actions speak for themselves, and climbs into people’s heads in often fruitless attempts to figure out what is rattling there.”

” [Later, in an article in the September 18 Times, reporter Michael Brick tells us that an attorney for one of the defendants told the jury in his opening statement (the trial started September 17) that his client was gay.]”

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