My Life Is Less Valuable to Congress

Let’s assume that someone murders me. I am dead, obviously, at that point. Whoever did the deed is tried and found guilty. I don’t know the sentencing recommendations for murder, but let’s assume it is 25 years to life.

Would I be any less dead if I had been black? Of Hispanic descent? Jewish? Gay? Female?

Would the person who murdered me be any more of a murderer had I been? Why should he deserve more time in jail because I possess a specific trait?

That is why reasonable folks have such an issue with the hate crimes bill the US House of Representatives recently passed. Had I had any of those characteristics about me, my murder would result in a stiffer penalty for the person who did the deed. Proponents of the bill say the increased punishments are to help certain classes of individuals. Yet, the result is that violence against a white male is valued less than had I been someone else.

This is the same flaw that gun control folks use. Had the murder been committed with a gun, would it have been more of a murder? Then why do we need more gun laws? It is already against the law to kill me with a gun. Making another law stating using a gun while committing a crime is illegal will not make much of a difference will it? I am already dead in this scenario. It is illegal to murder me. The use of the gun does not change that.

Reasonable people see the hypocrisy in these laws. Justice is supposed to be blind. Why are we pointing out to her characteristics that do not matter?

Also blogged on this date . . .

3 thoughts on “My Life Is Less Valuable to Congress”

  1. Some people will say that motive is used all of the time when determining sentencing – a second degree murder conviction will be looked upon differently when the murderer was part of a drug deal gone wrong rather than he walked in on some guy and his wife. And of course if a black guy killed you because he hates whitey, he could also get the enhancement. (I just read a case where a hate crime enhancement was upheld against a group of black men who beat up a white kid.)

    However, you’re right, it smacks of inequality, and that’s usually a sign of actual inequality. A murder is a murder, I’m not sure why a judge (or a jury where they are sentencing) needs to delve too deep into the psyche of a convict to sentence. Though I feel that all murderers should be given roughly the same sentence anyway.

  2. Wow! I never thought a post of mine would elicit such a response.

    The US already has a federal hate crimes law, but now congressional Democrats have passed an amendment to the law so that hate crimes against gays will be covered. And the prospect of protecting gays against hate crimes has thrown the right wing into a tizzy:

    ECache trots out a familiar argument: hate crimes legislation diminishes the groups who aren’t protected. The logic goes like this: if Bob spraypaints a swastika on my door and Pete spraypaints a swastika on the door of my Jewish neighbor, Bob and Pete should get the same punishment. If a law takes into account the fact that Pete’s crime is also an offense against every Jew in the neighborhood, then I am somehow diminished.

    While appletree acknowledges the argument I made, it does nothing to dispel it. There are lots of loaded words in the piece (Christian terrorists, anti-Muslim bloggers, Fascist, Axis of Crazy, sort of thing you’d expect to read in the Nazi publications, Christofascism, right-wing Roman Catholics, Professional bigot, Bush is threatening a veto in a bid to appease his bigoted base of support, hatred, anti-immigrant). It seems like calling names and labeling is the way his argument runs.

    This is not discourse; this is merely a smear campaign. It’s too bad that a response could not be reasoned as this could be a good debate.

  3. “If a law takes into account the fact that Pete’s crime is also an offense against every Jew in the neighborhood, then I am somehow diminished.”

    Uh… What? Does every Jew in the neighborhood have to come help clean up the door?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *