Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hate Crimes, cont'd.

A follow-up from yesterday's post:

It turns out there's basically no way the vandalism I referred to yesterday could be a hate crime under federal law. It might be a hate crime under Alabama state law, but I doubt it.

The federal hate crime law, found in Title 18, Section 245 of the U. S. Code, requires that the crime be committed "against a person," because of "race, color, religion, or national origin," and that it interferes with the victim taking part in one of the listed activities that range from attending schools to serving on juries, to eating in a public restaurant.

This particular instance of vandalism was not directed at "a person," but at a statue, so it fails right there, unless a court bought the argument that it somehow interfered with the right of white people to enjoy looking at confederate statues. Even then, visiting a war memorial is not one of the protected activities listed in the statute.

Earlier this year, however, the house passed a bill, H.R. 1952, that would include gender, sexual orientation, and disability as protected classes, and would eliminate the requirement that the victim be engaged in a protected activity. In September, the Senate passed it's version, S. 1105, as an amendment to a Defense Reauthorization Bill. However, the White House opposes the bill, and President Bush has said that he will veto the Defense Bill if it comes with the hate crimes legislation attached.

If the President does not veto, the vandalism would come closer to qualifying under the new version of the hate crimes law because it would not have to interfere with a protected activity. However, it would still have to be directed against "a person," which would be nigh impossible to argue convincingly. Bottom line: no federal hate crime.

Under Alabama state law, though, I'm not sure what the answer would be. Alabama appears to have a hate crime law against "institutional vandalism," but I don't know the details. (And with finals coming I'm not going to take the time to research it.) I assume that this is a response to "cross burning" and other defacement on black churches.

Speculating that the institution referred to would probably have to be an institution representative of some protected class, and assuming that the memorial is state-owned, I think it would be at best an uphill battle to convince a court that the state is an institution that distinctly represents white people. If the memorial is owned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy or some other such group, it might be a better argument, but you would still have to prove that it was motivated by racial hatred against whites rather than some other motivation like admiration for a historical "freedom fighter," opposition to the death penalty, or just a highly developed sense of historical irony.

1 comment:

Apyknowzitall said...