Friday, February 9, 2001 Volume 66, Issue 93



Hate crime legislation is overkill

Joshua Julian
Guest Columnist

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee recently cleared the James Byrd Junior Act, a bill strengthening punishments for crimes "motivated by hate or prejudice," by a 5-1 vote.

The bill is expected to go to the floor of the Texas Senate in March.

Byrd was brutally dragged to death by three white men in Jasper back in 1998.

What those men did was horrific. They should be punished to the fullest extent our law allows.

A message should be sent to all that if they commit murder for the sake of their beliefs harsh punishment will follow.

Hate crimes should be punished. But at what point should we start separating the crime from the motivation?

Hate crime legislation is, by its very nature, a violation of the First Amendment.

When a judge or jury punishes a man for the crime he committed, that is justice. But when a judge or jury punishes the man again because he holds an unpopular belief, that is discrimination.

Perhaps hate criminals have it coming. If there is anyone in this state who deserves the death penalty, it's those three men.

But those men should be punished as criminals, not racists.

In this society, if a jealous adulterer murders a woman's husband, we don't see it as a "love crime." So, why do we want to punish "hate crimes?"

Anyone watching the news knows the law is failing to protect certain groups in America.

Anyone who wants to take a stroll down death row and view the men behind bars will see one particular race dominates the cells.

Hate crime legislation is not the answer.

We must punish criminals and give everyone, regardless of race, color, sexual orientation or gender, a fair and equal trial. Hate crime legislation will not do that for us.

Deviants of our society must be convinced that a criminal act will be punished by a system that dispatches justice with a blind eye.

Anyone wanting to murder someone, regardless of why they would want to do it, will not get away with it. This is the message we need to send.

But we don't need to trample the Bill of Rights to do it. Harmful speech can easily be rectified in civil court. There is no need to take punishment of speech to the criminal level.

In this country, one ought to be free to believe whatever he or she wishes. Hate crime legislation is a step backward for civil rights.

It will fix certain problems in the short run, but it won't be long until those problems become more complex.

Julian, a junior communication major, 
can be reached at

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