Should This Be A Hate Crime?

The AP reports that a Census worker was found hanged in Kentucky, with the word “Fed” written on his chest.

Should this be prosecutable as a hate crime?

I’ve written about them before, and as was pointed out to me, there are two components to a hate crime: the crime itself, and the effect on others. That is, killing some random guy because he’s black has the side effect of terrorizing the entire black community in the area. In that sense, a hate crime is an act of terrorism.

According to Wikipedia, hate-crime laws in the US currently

protect against crimes motivated by enmity or animus against a protected class. Although state and federal laws vary, typical protected characteristics are race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability.

(hat tip to astute commenter Fez, who also correctly points out that what matters is not what the law should be, but what it is, i.e., what a judge will accept.)

“Federal employee” is not a protected class. Ergo, this is not a hate crime. (Assuming, for the sake of argument, that this person was murdered because he worked for the federal government, which seems likely.)

But would things have been any different if the murderer had written “nigger” instead of “Fed”? I’m not sure. Yes, federal employees can leave their jobs, but the core of targeting a person for who they are or what they do remains the same.

This entry was posted in News and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Should This Be A Hate Crime?

  1. Eamon Knight says:

    You can leave your religion too, but that’s still a protected class.

    As an aside, it bothers me that religion would be on that list, as it implies that it is also unchangeable like your skin colour. Now I am the first to agree that you should not ever have to change your religion due to pressure or intimidation — it is a matter of the individual’s free conscience. But by the same token you also should never have to leave your job, except by own choice, or for performance reasons, or legitimate downsizing by your employer.

    Like

  2. Eamon Knight says:

    I realize that I neglected to respond to the question in the headline: interesting. It suggests to me that the notion of defining hate crime in terms of an enumerated list of target classes is flawed.

    Like

  3. Fez says:

    Eamon Knight Says:

    You can leave your religion too, but that’s still a protected class.

    As an aside, it bothers me that religion would be on that list,

    I believe this stems from hate crime legislation being reactionary in nature (ie. they had a sufficient number of relevant incidents to justify the inclusion of a particular synthetic class).

    It suggests to me that the notion of defining hate crime in terms of an enumerated list of target classes is flawed.

    Somewhat agreed, but I fear some of the alternatives. Eg. if drafting hate crime legislation were open to public participation then there would be an unworkable number of special interest groups all clamoring for inclusion. On the other hand if the language is overly broad the problem of “proving motive” becomes an overwhelming burden on the prosecution that would render said legislation useless.

    OB disclosure – US Law has historically been drafted and interpreted by the judiciary as conservatively and narrowly as possible; an approach I personally agree with.

    Like

  4. Pingback: Posts about hate crime laws (best posts combined for review) as of September 24, 2009 | Discrimination Law News

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s