Lionel: Profiling Hate Crimes

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NEW YORK (WPIX) – In Wednesday’s Lionel, wants you to think twice before you single out a certain group for a crime.

When we read and hear of terrible news accounts where someone is attacked and beaten ostensibly and apparently because, say, the victim is gay or of a particular religious faith, the first natural reaction that we normally have is to call this a hate or bias crime. And that can cause problems.

Why? Because in addition to the prosecutor having to prove a crime beyond and to the exclusion every reasonable doubt as to a defendant`s intent or reckless state of mind in some cases, she now has to prove motive and why the crime was committed. Why this person was attacked. And weighing animus is also a problem.

Let me explain. Assume arguendo as we lawyers say that a gay man or a man who happens to be gay is targeted because the perp believes he`d be easier to overpower. The same with an elderly victim. Are you targeting someone because of your hate for their lifestyle or orientation or for their perceived vulnerability? And if the perp never utters a word or expresses a thought or is himself gay or elderly, how do you prove hate asmotivation? And do you see any problem in prosecuting someone for their beliefs no matter how horrible?

Remember, thoughts are protected. So, the answer: simple, just charge someone with a crime already as we say cognizable or on the books and at sentencing let him have it. Let the particulars of the victim impact be known loud and clear. But always protect thought and comment.