Hate Crime Laws

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On June 7, 1998, 49-year-old James Byrd Jr. of Texas accepted a ride from three white men, who then beat him severely, urinated on him, chained him by his ankles to the back of their pick-up truck, dragged him for three miles into the countryside, and dumped his corpse in front of an African-American cemetery (Graczyk). A little over a year later, a jury sentenced ring leader John King to death by lethal injection (“Man Executed for Dragging Death of James Byrd”). While this particular case may give the appearance that perpetrators of hate crimes receive appropriate punishment, almost a decade later, one particular case demonstrates the inequity in the application of hate crime punishments: In 2007, Sean Kennedy of Charleston, South Carolina, left a bar around 3:45 am and was confronted by Stephen Moller, who called him a “faggot” and then punched him so hard in the face that his facial bones broke and he fell backward onto the pavement, cracking his skull and dislocating his brain from the brain stem. Kennedy was taken off life support later that day. Moller was initially charged with his death, but the charges were reduced to manslaughter without the hate crime attachment, and he was sentenced to only 5 years. With good behavior and other benefits, Moller served a little over 1 year for the death of Sean Kennedy (Algren). Lawmakers need to clearly define and identify a hate crime and require more severe punishments for those crimes because past and current laws are deficient, unequally applied, and too broad to be applied and enforced appropriately. The FBI started investigating “hate crimes” in the early 1920’s when it opened the first case against the Ku Klux Klan. In 1990, the FBI passed the Hate Crime Statistics Act,... ... middle of paper ... ...2011. 30 Oct 2011. execution_1_lawrence-russell-brewer-john-william-king-shawn- berry?_s=PM:JUSTICE>. Shepard, Judy. "Matthew Shepard Foundation » Our Story." Matthew Shepard Foundation -. Matthewshepard.org. Web. 06 Dec. 2011. . "Rodney King Beating: MARCH 19, 1991." Prop1.org, 19 Mar 1991. 02 Nov 2011. . Turley, Jonathan. "Prosecutors Consider Hate Crime Charges in Clementi Case.” Jonathanturley.org. 3 Oct 2010. 26 Oct 2011. . Wellman, Christopher Heath. “Hate Crimes Deserve Harsher Punishment.” At Issue: What is a Hate Crime?Ed. Robert Winters.Detroit, MI: Greenhaven Press, 2007. 24-36.

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