Saturday, October 9, 2010

I Hate "Hate-Crimes"

A student from Rutgers University committed suicide by jumping off of the George Washington Bridge. This should be a time for mourning and reflection, but instead people are calling for yet another push in hate-crime legislation. You see, Tyler Clementi's suicide wasn't as tragically simple as a boy jumping to his death. It is believed by investigators that a video published on the Internet of Tyler having sex with another man caused the boy to want to take his own life. So now, the two students who allegedly made the video, Tyler's roommate Dhuran Ravi and his friend Molly Wei, may be faced with charges worse than invasion of privacy that they face as of now.

If these two are found guilty of filming Clementi and uploading sexual content of him to the Internet, then they should be prosecuted with fourth-degree and third-degree charges of privacy invasion, respectively. But as callous as it may sound, no one should be held responsible for Tyler's death but Tyler himself. The law was on his side if he chose to press charges against Ravi and Wei for filming him without his consent. Whether he was too embarrassed of the legal battle that would ensue and bring to light his sexual orientation or was just unaware that he had those options, the charges against those who wronged him shouldn't be trumped up because he took his own life.

When crimes are prosecuted as "hate-crimes" it is because there was a bias against the victim(s). In other words, it allows people to be prosecuted extra hard because of the way they think about others. This piece explains the difference between crimes and "hate-crimes" pretty accurately:
A mugger who robs a Jew because he's well-dressed is punished less severely than a mugger who robs a Jew based on the belief that Jews get their money only by cheating Christians. A thug who beats an old lady in a wheelchair just for fun is punished less severely than a thug who does so because he believes disabled people are leeches.

The age-old adage for prosecuting has always been "let the punishment fit the crime." I agree with that. But I don't agree with letting the punishment fit the crime and thought process of the criminal.

To me it seems that a great disservice is done to the victims when prosecutors, families, and special interest groups push for hate-crime status. It says, "This person is less than a person and therefore deserves more special treatment." I mean, think about it. The very definition of crime is hating someone enough to commit some offense against them. That's why I can't get behind the idea that certain crimes are more special than others, and therefore deserve harsher penalties.

I applaud certain groups for raising awareness about crimes to a certain demographic, such as We Give a Damn (dot) org (plus, they have a really catchy name). But despite what the organization says, bullying does not equal murder or manslaughter. There are certain charges that can be brought in cases of bullying, and they vary depending upon the severity of the bullying itself. Committing suicide after the bullying shouldn't aggravate the charges, because if that dangerous precedent gets set then it opens the door for any nut job with a cause to pile on charges (or affect legislation) by committing suicide after the fact.

Take this paragraph from the blog:
...crimes [emphasis mine] can happen anywhere, at any time. They are dehumanizing, willful acts of bigotry perpetrated with the intent to intimidate. They may range from harassment and physical intimidation to beatings, rape, torture —even murder. Perpetrators commit these horrific acts to intimidate and terrorize a community, and to send a message about the victim and “their kind.”

I took one word out of that paragraph while transferring it here: Hate. And you know what? It's still just as powerful, if not more so. There is nothing attractive about crime.

The United States Constitution (specifically the 14th Amendment) guarantees equal protection under the law. But I believe that protection falls more to the criminal in these circumstances than the victim. In Tyler's case, he is already receiving equal protection under the law because charges have been brought up against Dhuran Ravi and Molly Wei. It seems more like people are using his status as a homosexual to pursue unequal prosecution against the people that taped him. It is important for us as a Nation of Laws to not overreact in instances such as this, but to thing rationally and treat all victims and defendants equally. Only then, will we be able to show how truly just our nation is.

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