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Hate Crime and Punishment

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Hate Crime and the Punishments

Love Thy Neighbor. We have all been taught, if not have heard these same words. There are two opposite words in the dictionary with two opposite meanings. Love is defined as to have a deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, and on the other side Hate is told as to feel hostility or animosity toward a person or thing. With this, hate crimes can be murder or assault, or racially or religiously motivated. In the following cases you will see that hate crimes take many different forms and also punished in different ways.

In the Mississippi Code punishment for Hate Crimes are noted in 99-19-301 through 99-19-307. In order to impose an enhanced penalty under the provision of 99-19-301 through 99-19-307, the jury must find beyond a reasonable doubt: that the defendant knew that the victim was within the class delineated; and that the defendant had specific intent to commit the offense because the victim was within the class delineated. As subsection two of the hate-crimes statute indicates, in order for the felony enhancement to apply, a person must commit an underlying misdemeanor "primary offense." Primary offenses under the statute include assault, property destruction, criminal trespass, and any misdemeanor offense against public order and decency. According to the Mississippi crime and punishment graph, hate crimes that are any felony or misdemeanor act racially motivated may double in sentence.

Beckwith v. State, Medgar Evers, a black civil rights activist and leader in the turbulent 1950s-1960s civil rights struggles, was murdered at his home in Jackson January 12, 1963. Byron De La Beckwith, a vocal prosegregationist and white supremacist in this State, was arrested June 23rd and indicted for Evers' murder at the July, 1963, term of the grand jury of Hinds County. He stood trial in February, 1964, and following a hung jury, a mistrial was ordered by the circuit judge February 7. He again stood trial in April, and following another hung jury, the circuit judge declared a mistrial April 17, 1964. Until his second trial, Beckwith had been incarcerated without bail. Following his second trial Beckwith was released on $10,000 bail. He ran a markedly unsuccessful election and his successor on March 10, 1969, moved court to enter a nolle prosequi of the indictment. There was no objection by the defense to the entry of the nolle prosequi. No further effort was made by the State to initiate criminal proceedings against Beckwith until December, 1990, term of the Hinds County grand jury when he again was indicted for murder. Beckwith, then living in Tennessee, following an extradition contest in the Tennessee courts, was extradited to Mississippi and incarcerated in a Hinds County jail.

In the town of Jasper, Texas James Byrd Jr. was killed on June 14, 1998. He was dragged nearly three miles on Huff Creek Road, after being chained behind a pick up truck. Three men were responsible for his death. A jury convicted Shawn Allen Berry of capital murder for causing the death of James Bryd, Jr. while in the course of committing or attempting to kidnap. Because James was black, these men chose to make an example of him, so as to start a Hate group in Jasper, Texas. Instead, this one individual's death caused the world to take a hard look at the subject of Hate and how this must never happen again in the new millennium. In doing this, Texas governor, Rick Perry passed signed into law the "James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act" that amended the previous generic hate crimes law to include race, color, disability, religion, national origin or ancestry, age, and gender or sexual orientation. This bill also provides for enhanced penalties if a judge or jury finds that a violent act or property crime was motivated by bias. The Byrds also work to educate young people on diversity and acceptance of all people.

Showing that not all hate-crimes consist on Black and white issues the recent case Shepard v. Henderson proves that hate-crimes also can be based on your own choice to live your life. On October 12, 1998, the world was pained and overwhelmed by the death of one young gay college student, Matthew Shepard. Matthew died because he was savagely beaten and tied to a fence in the prairie of Laramie, Wyoming by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. Prosecutors were seeking the death penalty against McKinney in October 1999. They claimed that McKinney and co-host Russell Henderson were involved in the brutal slaying of Shepard. Henderson and McKinney, prosecutors said, pretended to be gay, met Shepard at a bar, and lured him in to the pickup truck McKinney was driving. Then they pistol-whipped him, beat him, robbed him, tied him to a fence, and left him on the freezing Wyoming plains. Bloody and unconscious, the student, still bound to the fence, was found 18 hours later and taken to the hospital. Shepard died several days later. Henderson pleaded guilty to lesser charge of felony murder with robbery and kidnapping. He claimed that he witnessed, but did not participate in, Shepard's murder and claimed that he did not benefit from the proceeds of the robbery. Henderson also claimed that it was McKinney's idea to rob and beat Shepard. Henderson and his girlfriend, Chasity Pasley, testified against McKinney at his trial. Pasley, was sentenced to 15 to 24 months in jail for her role in attempted cover-up of Shepard's murder. Prosecutors said Pasley and Kristen Price, McKinney's girlfriend, tried to provide the defendants with alibis, threw Henderson's bloody clothes in a dumpster at Cheyenne, and hid Shepard's bloody shoes in a storage shed. Pasley pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to first degree murder as well as Price. Henderson was charged with first degree murder , kidnapping and aggravated robbery in the beating and death of Shepard. Felony murder, the count to which he pleaded, means a murder that happens during the commission of another felony, in this case robbery. McKinney



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