Saturday, November 27, 2004

Hate Crimes: What happened to Equal Before the Law?

gay flagJustice Shouldn't Be Tilted by 'Hate Crimes' a thoughtful article in the LA Times (of all places) discusses the murder of Mathew Shepard, and "the notion that anyone is safer, freer, wiser or more generous in spirit because some murders might be defined as worse than murder, some victims considered special, and some perpetrators punished more harshly — all on the basis of something as measureless as hate."

Drugs and alcohol were heavily involved and one of the attackers beat up someone else in almost the same way he beat up Shepard on the way to burgle Shepard's apartment. Was it a hate crime, or just a vicious crime? Does it matter?

Assault and murder are both horrible acts, both illegal, and both deserving of punishment. They are not more horrible when a gay dies, they should not be subject to different penalties.

The inequities that are the result of this kind of separating of victims are illustrated by another case in the same locale.
A third awful occurrence in Laramie should have drawn bright circles around the inequities of that kind of treatment. In January 1999, Henderson's [one of the attackers] mother, Cindy Dixon, was found dead. She had been raped and struck and left in the snow to die. No powerful advocates spoke for her. She was likely to come to a bad end, people said, what with the drinking and the men, and then her son….

Nobody took the measure of hate. By the time the Dixon case was wrapped up, they weren't even talking murder. A man pleaded guilty to manslaughter, and the same judge who sent Dixon's son to prison forever sentenced her killer to four to nine years. He got out last year.
If some murders are to be seen as worse than others, then some people will be killed at a discount. Where is the Justice in that? [Thanks to Right Side of the Rainbow.]

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