In the past couple of weeks, a defense appropriations bill was hashed out and finally passed, sending it to President Obama’s desk. He signed it. What irks me about this?
Democrats tacked a completely unrelated piece of legislation onto the bill: an expansion of the federal hate crimes law. The expansion isn’t what you think, either.
Oh, sure, it expands the definition of a “hate crime” to include those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, as well as the disabled. It also includes those with disabilities (because we all know how prevalent hate crimes against the disabled are). An act of Congress that was originally intended to protect racial minorities after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. now includes other groups who largely have few or no genetic indicators.
The reach of this new extension is incredible. It flies in the face of Constitutional protections against double jeopardy by providing an in-road for federal courts to try people a second time for the same crime–both those who were convicted of crimes and those who were acquitted. Janet Reno supported this exact same piece of legislation back in 1998 as a way to “give people the opportunity to have a forum in which justice can be done if it is not done in the state court.”
This is expressly forbidden by the Fifth Amendment: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
The same Constitutional Amendment that says we cannot be required to say anything that would be self-incriminating also forbids the government from coming back and trying us a second time after we’ve been found innocent. The hate crimes legislation that Obama has now signed into law attempts an end-run around the Constitution and it’s been something the Democrats have salivated over since the Clinton Administration. It will have an unprecedented effect on criminal justice.
Here’s how it’ll work. Say two white teenagers attack and savagely beat a Hispanic man (this actually happened in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania). The victim dies two days later of his severe injuries. Police quickly arrest the teenagers on information provided by many witnesses, and the perps all start spilling it. Prosecutors go for the gusto: they charge them with everything they possibly can, including ethnic intimidation. The jury acquits, however, refusing to convict the boys of anything more than simple assault. The perps have been convicted of some charges, acquitted of others, and they’ll be punished.
Not so fast. Now, the new legislation gives the federal government the ability to step in and prosecute a second time.
Congressional powers were supposed to be limited; the States were supposed to be the authorities on prosecuting crimes unless several states were involved, in which case the federal government would have the power to prosecute a string of crimes in one case. This new legislation turns that ideal on its head. Federalism is not supported by the Constitution, but Obama and the Democrats are trying to force it on us. The Morrison decision by the US Supreme Court may have set the precedent, and this legislation may be scrapped after all–or it may not.
The original hate crimes law was protected by the Thirteenth Amendment, which gave the federal government the power to protect freed slaves. This addition, however, is absurd. What is more bothersome, however, is that Democrats have all but crucified Bush for the USA PATRIOT Act, saying that in passing the Act Bush “wiped his ass with the Constitution.” What do you call what Obama is doing?
Janet Reno said that hate crimes were especially deplorable because victims are chosen “based on who they are, not what they’ve done.” This argument is incredible. How many crimes are committed against a person based on what that victim has done? I suppose if my neighbor were to be mugged and beaten it would be because of something he did to piss someone off, right? The woman I talked to who was raped for an hour must have deserved it because of something she did, is that it? No. Hate crimes are no different from any other crime. In the event that I were badly beaten or killed by someone who did so because I was a lesbian, I would want that perp to be charged with actual crimes. I would not want him slapped with hate crimes, because that places my life in value above others, and I’m not worth more than any other law-abiding citizen in society.
The common argument I’ve gotten from some Democrats I know is that hate crimes are committed to terrorize an entire group, and that needs to be stopped. Okay…then let those acts fall under terrorism laws, if it can be proven. Hate crimes laws equal thought crimes laws. Our founders would be mortified.