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Thursday, September 27, 2007

All Men Are Equal, But Some Are More Equal Than Others

The pigs on Animal Farm thought that they were more equal, and the extreme left wing of our political spectrum believes that about certain American citizens. This post is about one of my pet peeves - the creation and implementation of hate crime legislation.

The basis behind hate crime legislation is that the motives of the offender are of more importance than the act of the offender. Those who support this legislation find it worse to be murdered because the victim was homosexual and the offender did not like homosexuals, than it is for someone to be murdered to steal their money and the identity of the victim didn't matter to the offender.

It is legislation that as most legislation these days, is nonsense. Our criminal laws are in place for social control; that is, there is a standard of mores and actions among our society that are acceptable and those which aren't. They are divided into two categories: mala in se and mala prohibita. Mala in se is a crime because of the inherent wrong of the act itself. Murder, rape, robbery, and assault are examples. Mala prohibita is a crime because society has decided that a particular act or circumstance is wrong and should be codified as such. Driving on the left side of the road, or insider trading or letting your dog loose without a leash are examples.

Murder is a mala in se crime. It is wrong to take the life of another human being, except in self defense or when society deems capital punishment an appropriate measure. That is a tenet of every legal system, and a premise of every religion in the world. How is murder more wrong because someone didn't like homosexuals or people of a particular race?

It isn't. Our criminal law is based upon a person being guilty when two things occur. The first is mens rea, or the intent to commit a particular action. This isn't the motive, but the mental process by which a person makes a decision to drive on the wrong side of the road or to pull a trigger. The other part is the actus reas, or the physical act that accomplished the mental decision. Deciding to pull the trigger, I command my finger to actually pull the trigger and a murder takes place.

We do not distinguish between motives. Juries always like to hear a motive in a criminal case, but proving a motive is not found in any requirements in any law to obtain a conviction. Therefore, in criminal law the motive is irrelevant, but the process of committing a crime and the resulting crime are what matters.

Hate crime legislation is bowing down to special interests and particular people. It does nothing to better society and does nothing to deter crime. What it does is open the door for meaningless prosecutions and the unnecessary attachment of a label to an offender. I could care less how a murderer or rapist is labeled, but the presence of these laws provide for ridiculous prosecutions.

How about Jena 6? People are shocked at the use of nooses over a tree, and this could be considered a hate crime. However, the black children who retaliated because the victim was white should be charged with a hate crime also. But they won't be so charged, because the purpose of the hate crime laws does not accomplish what criminal law is supposed to accomplish, and that is to make everyone equal under the law.

Today, the democrat party is blatantly patronizing a special interest group - homosexuals - by tying more ridiculous hate crime legislation to the funding bill for our troops in Iraq.

I guess that the dems see homosexuals as more equal than our warriors.

8 Posts From Readers:

Jennifer said...

What a great post Robert, I couldnt agree more. It always strikes me funny when I hear the word "hate crime." Seriously, what else would it be called love crime? It does not matter if you murdered someone because he was gay or if you murdered someone because you didnt like that person. That person is still dead, period. Killing someone is wrong. Calling it a hate crime doesnt make it more wrong. If somebody shoots me dead, would it be a hate crime against whites because he was black. Or if it was a gay person that killed me, would that also be considered a hate crime. I sincerely doubt it!

Team Thesaurus said...

You might want to consider what would happen in the inverse situation.

For example an American who died fighting for "freedom" in Iraq would be given honors, medals and a procession. An American who died from heart disease from eating too much Junk Food would not be given such honors because they had no "cause" to die for.

By your logic all deaths should be considered equal...just as all crimes should be.

While I agree with your sentiment, you might want to acknowledge that every society has "values" and these values are reflected in either the sentencing of criminals or the way that society honors it's dead or worships it's idols.

Society developed the idea that persecution of minorities is more malicious than random crime because minority groups are easy targets and more vulnerable to exploitation.

This is no-different than it is in a drunken pub fight or a school playground where it is considered "dishonorable" for a strong person to attack a weaker person or a man to attack a woman.

The weaker person may have provoked the attack but public perception would dictate that physical retaliation would make the stronger party look like a "bully".

The other problem is that like Nazi's...people who commit hate crimes "Justify" their attacks by perceiving others as inferior. No crime is justifiable and hence I think that in some cases, where someone who thinks a crime is justified, that individual is more dangerous because "punishment" is not a deterrent while they can rationalize that what they are doing is "right".

There are several reasons this phenomena has developed and while you may not agree with it, there are obvious reasons why it has developed this way.

You contradict yourself by saying that "in criminal law, the motive is irrelevant" yet you also say "except in self defense or when society deems capital punishment an appropriate measure". If motive is irrelevant then how can there be exceptions? Hate crime laws are merely more "exceptions" (as you perceive them)...and they are not the only exceptions because each case has unique circumstances.

Capital punishment has not deterred anyone from committing a crime either so I don't think that the presence of more "exceptions" in regard to motives is the sole reason for the non-existence of crime. Hate crimes would be more likely to receive more attention and longer sentences as these people would be "percieved" by some as more dangerous.

Realistically no legislation or deterrent ever has prevented or ever will prevent crime because there will always be a percentage of the population who have "nothing to lose" or have convinced themselves that their crime is "morally justified".

Hence the function of the justice system is to minimize harm rather than "to make everyone equal under the law". To create equality is a delusional and unrealistic goal because all people are different.

For example, jail is supposed to take away people's freedom but to many who don't understand the concept of freedom or who find security in captivity...you may actually be doing them a favor rather than a punishment.

Even killing a murderer may not be a punishment as they obviously did not value life to begin with!!! Nothing you can do to a criminal is going to compensate the victim for their suffering.

To believe that punishment magically creates equality is an anachronistic and irrational assumption.

Bill Float said...

The truth is, Minorities often don't have the same representation as the Majority group does. If a pro-democracy activist was killed in America, the death would be received as Honorable Martyrdom and the criminals punished. But if a pro-democracy activist was killed in China, the death would be covered up and the criminals would walk free. This is because the pro-democracy group in America is the Majority and the pro-democracy group in China is the Minority. The Majority excersises a greater influence on those justice system in that situation.

It is the same with homophobic crimes. Because homosexuals are the minority in America, they will not receive the same benefits as other groups. If a homosexual was murdered for his sexuality, it would receive less attention then if a random person that we can all relate to was murdered. This because more people feel similar to the person murdered in the second case than in the first. General-public-average-Joe-working-class is a Majority in America. The homosexual person is a Minority in America and would receive less of the benefits that the second person would upon death because the second person is part of the Majority group.

The Federalists (those who supported the constitution) agreed that all of the previous governments went wrong because they did not do enough to protect the Minorities (See Federalist #10 of the Federalist Papers). It is very important for governments to make equal the Minorities and the Majorities without Tyranny of the Majority or Tyranny of the Majority. The Government doesn't have to bend over backwards for the Minorities, but it should make amends so that the Minorities receive the same representation as the Majorities.

Hate-crime laws are an attempt to even out the benefits if the Minorities and the benefits of the Majorities.

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