Thursday, September 13, 2007

New Development in "Hate Crime" Case.

This morning's news does something to answer our questions as to the motives behind the possible "hate crime" that occurred this week in West Virginia. CNN reports that the victim, Megan Williams, may have had a previous relationship with one of the suspects. Furthermore, all six of the suspects have been arrested numerous times prior to this incident and are "familiar with law enforcement". The mother of the man accused of raping Miss Williams, Frankie Brewster, was tried for first degree murder in the 1990s and spent 5 years in jail on the lesser charge of manslaughter. Clearly, this family had many prior encounters with the legal system. Knowing what we know now, are they "evil" or is this a product of the American justice system failure to rehabilitate? Whose fault is this?


MadMax said...

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, there you go again……….So quick to jump to conclusions about a violent crime being considered a “hate crime”. I guess that’s because this particular case involved some white trash and a black girl. Granted the crime was violent, grotesque and bizarre but a hate crime? I think NOT!

I guess that I just don’t get the whole hate crime thing anyway. Does this label make the crime any worse? Does it give justice more validity? Are causations victims of hate crime every time they are jumped and beaten by members of another race simply because they are white and walking down the wrong street?

Perhaps at one time or another we are all victims of violent crimes, prejudice, and reverse discrimination, much like the members of the Duke lacrosse team, simply because of a particular group we are associated with. You don’t have to be black, or brown, or gay, or whatever to be a victim of hate. I suggest that we get rid of the hate crime label and allow our judicial system make determinations of innocence or guilt without bias or prejudice.

Kiki L. said...

As more becomes known about what happened in West Virginia, it might be possible that this was not a hate crime. Regardless, hate crimes need to be acknowledged and treated with the severity they deserve. While other crimes target individuals, hate crimes dehumanize others since as victims are chosen solely because they are part of a different group than the perpetrator. I am not the only one who thinks this either. In Wisconsin vs. Mitchell, the Supreme Court decided that a state could take into account whether the victim was chosen based on their status in a “protected class.” The brief stated, “Bias motivated crimes are more likely to provoke retaliatory crimes, inflict distinct emotional harms on their victims, and incite community unrest.” Hate crimes are practically harmful because they break down communities. Furthermore, if we do not a bold statement that it is not ok to target people based on their race, gender, or any other reason, the potential for the hate to grow and turn into something much bigger (like genocide) is there.

I’d also like to note that Wisconsin vs. Mitchell was based on a group of black kids targeting a white boy. The victim does not have to be in a stereotypically targeted group, anyone can be the victim of a hate crime. No matter who the victim is, it is just as horrifying and needs to be addressed and acknowledged.

ERose said...

On June 29, 2005, a white male by the name of Nicholas Minucci assaulted three black men with a baseball bat near Howard Beach in Queens, NY. Minucci robbed the men and sent one of them to the hospital. To top it off, witnesses heard Minucci use racial slurs while assaulting the three men. In 2006, Minucci was sentenced to 15 years in jail. This article from the New York Times, published before sentencing, details the case.

Clearly, Minucci was racially motivated in his violent assault. While this issue was heavily debated in court, the jury eventually recognized the crime's racially biased motive. However, Americans are often too quick to judge the motivation of a violent crime.

The West Virginia case emphasizes something very wrong with the American media and the American judicial system. Crimes involving people of different races are immediately categorized as "hate crimes". The media presupposed that this case was a hate crime, judging the facts just after the initial details were released. Journalists tend to exaggerate the facts, often causing the public to judge crimes under false pretenses. Additionally, "hate crimes" are considered especially heinous in a court of law, often leading to harsher punishment. In the West Virginia case, the media automatically assumed that a hate crime had taken place. This mentality (especially within our judicial system) institutionalizes judicial prejudice, benefiting neither the victim nor the defendant.

Nicholas Minucci deserved his punishment. Undisputable witness testimony proved that his assault of three black men was a in fact a hate crime.

Although the case in West Virginia has not developed any further, I am willing to bet that the "hate crime" issue will be contested in court as the result of the prejudice of the American judicial system. The question must be asked - if hate crime charges are brought against the family, are they deserved, or are they merely a product of institutionalized prejudice that must be removed from the American judicial system? It seems that more evidence will be needed in order to decide either way.

Whether or not hate did motivate these horrific acts, the West Virginia family undoubtedly committed atrocious acts of evil. Should we automatically assume that the family was racially motivated, or should we solely condemn them as evil criminals? If we should consider racial bias as a cause, are we bringing justice to the victim or are we merely institutionalizing hate by incorporating prejudice within the judicial system? I am very in favor of calling a crime a "hate crime" if it is duly warranted, yet in order to achieve racial equality, we must first judge a crime as a crime and then examine any potential racial bias that may have motivated such acts.