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Charging Hate Crimes is a Slippery Slope

Christine Flowers on

If it is this easy to use words that have lost all relevant meaning when they are regurgitated every time someone wants to make a political point, imagine how easy it will be for some prosecutor to use those suspicions of bias to impugn a criminal defendant.

That opens up a can of worms that will eat away at the decaying body of due process and our criminal justice system.

I’m not naïve enough to believe that people don’t have hate in their hearts. They do, and those pretentious little signs that pop up like crabgrass on suburban lawns aren’t necessary to corroborate that fact. We know that bigotry exists.

But to take that certainty and graft it onto our adversarial process is dangerous. You cannot take judicial notice of the fact that someone is a bigot, and that their bigotry motivated their criminal actions. You need to prove it by actual admission from the perpetrator and, if necessary, circumstantial evidence. And except in the cases of people like Dylan Rufe, who was quite clear that he wanted to kill African Americans at Mother Emmanuel, you will have a very hard time proving that and still protecting the defendant’s due process rights.

We all want to punish bad people. I, frankly, have always supported the stiffest of penalties for heinous crimes. I am an advocate of the death penalty, and nothing will sway me from that position.

 

But adding “hate” penalties is a dangerous thing in a society that is already primed to see “hatred” in every act that troubles them. I applaud Keith Ellison for pointing out that even in a country where the majority celebrated the conviction of Derek Chauvin, convicting him as a bigot was a step too far.

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Copyright 2021 Christine Flowers. Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at cflowers1961@gmail.com.

Copyright 2021 Christine Flowers, All Rights Reserved. Credit: Cagle.com
 

 

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