Hate Crimes and Rutgers Webcam CaseMelancton Smith • Tuesday May 22, 2012 8:12 AM PDT •
It appears that state prosecutors will appeal the 30 day sentence handed down to Dharun Ravi. (See this news article from the Christian Science Monitor) Judge Glenn Berman ordered Ravi to be imprisoned for 30 days in jail for spying with a webcam on his gay Rutgers University roommate, Tyler Clementi, who killed himself days later. Many activists were upset because Ravi could have received a 10-year term for acting with anti-gay bias. Judge Berman was uncomfortable with a longer sentence because bias crime charges are normally reserved for crimes of violence.
This case should provide us with an opportunity to rethink the idea of hate crimes. Do we really want a jury or judge to try to get inside a person’s head and determine whether he acted out of hate? And, if the answer is yes, enhance the defendant’s punishment? It is one thing to judge facts showing that an individual invaded privacy or committed some criminal act. But “hate crimes” are a different ballgame.
Hate crimes are nothing but political tools forced upon the legal system by those who should know better. The legal system has functioned well without hate crimes. In fact, the most publicized cases (James Byrd and Matthew Shepard) that led to various state and federal hate crimes laws, provide the best evidence of why these laws aren’t needed. Byrd’s killer received a death sentence and Shepard’s two consecutive life terms. What good would hate crimes statutes have done? None.
Same thing in this case. Ravi is being punished for improper use of the webcam. It is useless to speculate whether he acted because he “hated” his roommate or not. We need to rethink the use of “hate crimes” to punish acts committed upon favored groups of the Left.