Charleston shooting

The Second Indictment of Dylann Roof Is Worse Than Redundant

New charges against the Charleston shooter highlight the unconstitutional absurdity of the federal hate crime statute.

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Dylann Roof, the man charged with murdering nine people at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, last month, faces execution or life imprisonment if he is convicted in state court. A federal indictment announced last week threatens him with the same penalties, although you can't kill a man more than once or lock him up for more than a lifetime.

What looks like a redundant prosecution is in fact something worse. It is an unconstitutional attempt to federalize a crime that South Carolina's courts are perfectly capable of handling on their own, for the sake of sending a message that the criminal law should not be used to send.

The New York Times reports that "Justice Department and F.B.I. officials have said the Charleston shooting was so horrific and racially motivated that the federal government must address it." The Times notes that "South Carolina does not have a hate crime law," adding that "federal officials have said they believe that a murder case alone would leave the racial component of the crime unaddressed."

In other words, by charging Roof with murdering people "because of their actual and perceived race and color," the Justice Department condemns his benighted beliefs as well as his appalling actions. The Times notes that the evidence against Roof includes his "racist Internet manifesto" as well as his anti-black comments as he shot the parishioners at the church.

Since Roof already faces the maximum penalty under state law, he can hardly receive extra punishment for his bigotry. But defendants in less serious cases can and do: An assault that might be punished by a year or two in prison under state law can trigger a sentence up to 10 years under the federal hate crime statute if the defendant has a history of writing or saying racist stuff.

In fact, the offender in such a case can be punished twice for the same crime, once under state law and again under federal law. And if he happens to be acquitted in state court, he can be tried again in federal court.

This sort of serial prosecution looks an awful lot like double jeopardy, which is prohibited by the Fifth Amendment. But according to the Supreme Court, it is merely "dual sovereignty": The same action is two crimes, one for each government that has jurisdiction.

You may wonder where Congress got the authority to federalize a crime based on the nasty opinions expressed by the person who committed it. The provision under which Roof was charged, which applies to cases where the victim was chosen because of his "actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin," is supposedly authorized by the 13th Amendment.

If you do not understand how the constitutional ban on slavery applies to someone who punches an African American or a Latino while shouting a racial epithet, or to someone who specializes in mugging Jews because he figures they have a lot of money, you are not alone. As the Cato Institute and the Reason Foundation (my employer) noted in a 2013 Supreme Court brief, the provision cited in Roof's federal indictment "does not prohibit slavery or involuntary servitude"; "nor is it a prophylactic measure intended to assist in preventing the return of slavery or involuntary servitude."

The constitutional rationale for another provision of the federal hate crime law, covering crimes in which the victims were selected because of their "gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability," is even less plausible. All it takes to make a federal case out of such crimes is a weapon "that has traveled in interstate or foreign commerce."

The farcical justifications for the federal hate crime statute are especially troubling because there is no reason to think the offenders it covers would otherwise go unpunished. If the Charleston massacre is exactly the sort of crime the law was meant to address, that just shows how gratuitous the law is.

© Copyright 2015 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. I’ve never before taken the time to look at the constitutional justification for federal hate crimes legislation. What a fucking clown show. From the link in the article:

    Like the district court, we conclude that Congress has power under the Thirteenth
    Amendment to enact ? 249(a)(1). Although the Thirteenth Amendment by its
    terms applies to slavery and involuntary servitude, Supreme Court precedent
    confirms Congress’s authority to legislate against slavery’s “badges and
    incidents” as well. In particular, the Supreme Court held in
    Jones v. Alfred H.
    Mayer Co.
    , 392 U.S. 409 (1968)?a case permitting a federal private right of
    action against private individuals for housing discrimination?that Congress itself
    has power to determine those badges and incidents
    .

    Welp…

    1. Look the penumbras have emanations and FYTW

      1. How is it exactly that The ACLU has gotten out of addressing this?

        Too busy gagging in Morris Dees’ penumbra?

  2. This isn’t about justice, racial or otherwise. This is about federal prosecutors who crave their minutes in the spotlight and the resume enhancement that would bring.

    1. Funny how they call their stackable charges “enhancements”, like it’s an improvement. A guy gets arrested with a bag of weed, but has a CCW permit so they search his home after the arrest and find a gun. They then charge him with a “weapons enhancement”.

  3. I hate, hate crime laws.

    1. Shouldn’t that be “I hate hate-crime laws”?
      Unless you are addressing the statutes themselves?

      /pedant

      1. You are correct. I knew I could count on you.
        In my fury screaming at these mendacious stacks of papers, I doubted myself when I first wrote hate hate. Rape rape I understand but hate hate just sounds like baby talk.

      2. “Hate crime” isn’t hyphenated.

  4. BOtard approves. Although I have it on good authority that hate-speech laws are IMPORTANT, while flag-burning laws are a despicable threat to our God-given first amendment rights…

    1. And – seriously – can we stop publishing that fucking photo of him?!?! He looks like a white-trash sad clown painting…

      1. That’s hate speech against white trash sad clowns!

        http://www.danwei.com/wp-conte…..j-news.jpg

      2. He looks like a white-trash sad clown painting…

        Shouldn’t that be “sad white-trash clown”?

  5. At a press confrence Bush was being chastized because Texas had no hate crime law to charge the sorry idiots that drug the black man Byrd to death behind their truck.

    He replied, ” We sentenced them to death” while looking disdainfully at the cub reporter.

    In some states they would have lived out their natural lives, in prison but alive. They may have even killed abother black man in prison if they had done their deed in a state with hate crime law but no death penalty.

    1. He replied, ” We sentenced them to death” while looking disdainfully at the cub reporter.

      Sentencing them to death isn’t good enough if you don’t also get to strike the right pose by condemning their racist views. How else will progtards know who to look down upon and feel superior to? Feeling superior to “those rednecks in flyover country” is half the reason people take up progressive views in the first place.

  6. I’ve never understood how the concept of hate crime laws pass legal muster. I naively assumed that outside of their veiws being used as a basis for probable cause the crime itself was the only thing that could be subject to prosecution. Have we really fallen so far down the Orwellian rabbit hole that expressed thought itelf can be criminalized?

    1. Hate crimes are crimes of intolerance.

      We Enlightened will not tolerate intolerance.

      /Progtards

    2. Technically the distinction between tort and crime is the same animal: intent.

      Hate Crime laws just prefer different intents over others.

      All criminal law is thought crime.

      If tort is punishment for ends, hate crime is punishment for means. Regular crime is a synthesis of the 2. Hate crime is deontology. Means (un)justifes the ends.

      It’s not bad theory, its just a bad implementation. The moral orthodoxy of Hate Crime needs a secular and logical basis. Currently its a social construct. Not all intents are created equal, but we aren’t judging them in a defensible manner, we are just knee-jerk reacting to accusations of racism, and other unpopular intents.

      1. The main difference between a crime and a tort is not intent. Sometimes it makes a difference but really they are differentiated by the party pursuing the case (state vs private), the level of proof required and more importantly, the remedy.

  7. Last I checked, being a racist wasn’t against the law, but murdering people was. So when did trying and executing a person for the illegal thing they did become inadequate?

    1. 1968

    2. “federal officials have said they believe that a murder case alone would leave the racial component of the crime unaddressed.”

      The feds are afraid that without a hate crime being charged, that race and racial motivations may not be mentioned in the trial, and then may not get into the headlines.

      We must not be a color blind society! They want everything defined by race.

  8. Stacking charges in general seems to me to be a miscarriage of justice. The federal code, in particular, is so complex that any one crime you’re accused of can result in dozens and dozens of individual charges carrying prison terms. Which basically let’s prosecutors throw a whole bucket of shit at the wall, some of which will inevitably stick and allows them to force guilty pleas because even the innocent know an insurmountable fight when they see one.

    1. I thought much the same, but towards the direction of this gem:

      “This sort of serial prosecution looks an awful lot like double jeopardy, which is prohibited by the Fifth Amendment. But according to the Supreme Court, it is merely “dual sovereignty”: The same action is two crimes, one for each government that has jurisdiction.”

      Awesome! “Yes, yes, I’ll attend the initial hearing for the town police after the Neighborhood Watch deposition, but before the meeting with the city attorney and we’ll have to reschedule the case review with the sheriff, but that has to happen before I can call the state attorney general”.

  9. Thoughtcrime – governments love it.

  10. Serious question: has somebody convicted of a hate crime taken an appeal to the Supreme Court? I did a quick Google search and couldn’t come up with anything.

    1. I can’t imagine that ever happening… You KNOW that if any justices opined that piling on extra punishments for racial motivations was unconstitutional, the left would have a shitfit and start squealing about how those evil ReTHUGlican appointees ruled that it’s perfectly legal to murder black people because of their race.

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  12. Would Dylann Roof get a reduced sentence if he murdered people because he loved them?

  13. The simple reality is that a “hate crime” is basically a thought crime, so it’s no surprise that liberals (who use Orwell as their guide to how to run things, though their goals tend to be more Huxleyan) would love laws punishing them. They do so even for crimes for which the maximum possible penalty (which they oppose) is likely to be imposed. Better still, hate crimes are assessed on the basis of attacks on specific groups that generally function as liberal client groups. How many liberals would have wanted Floyd Corkins charged with a hate crime?

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  15. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

    Isn’t it obvious that our courts have consistantly gone far astray reinterpreting our Constitution to achieve their agenda of reforming the United States of America into a collectivist form of centralized government, wresting power from the hands of the people and the States by first acquiring the means enabling the Fedeal government to redistribute wealth via the Federal income tax on individuals, and then by Federal agencies applying rules and regulations relating to how monies returned to the States must be spent. The 13th amendment says NOTHING which a rational interpretation would support prosecuting someone differently for committing a crime based on hate. Crime is crime, regardless of any differences between the person committing the crime and the victim. Should a poor person be treated more harshly for stealing from a rich person, or vice versa?

    Beginning early in the 20th century, our Constitution has been made a meaningless document in the hands of those we have elected to represent us in our Federal government. Shouldn’t we, the people AND the States, start to change that? I can think of more than 18 trillion reasons to say a resounding YES as answer to that question.

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