James Kerian: Chapel Hill Murders Show The Absurdity Of Hate Crime Legislation


Last week a grand jury indicted Craig Hicks for the murder of three students living in Chapel Hill, NC.  Police say the triple murder was the result of a parking dispute but the Department of Justice has launched an investigation to consider the murders as a hate crime.

Hicks, it turns out, is a  militantly anti-religious liberal/progressive who is fond of MSNBC, the Huffington Post and other media venues where a self-described “gun-toting anti-theist” like Hicks would be most likely to find affirmation of his own views.  The three victims were Muslims.  Friends and neighbors of the victims have suggested that Hicks’ hatred for religion was at least a partial motivation for the murders.[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]The rationale of hate crime legislation would lead to the conclusion that the murderer would merit a lighter punishment if he took their lives for a piece of pavement.[/mks_pullquote]

The crime is certainly heinous regardless of the motivation.  The victims were, by all accounts, great young people and Chapel Hill was fortunate to have them as part of their community.  The recent picture that has circulated of one of the victims dancing with her father at her wedding is particularly heartbreaking.  So why does the motivation matter to law enforcement or to the justice system?

I dislike anti-religous bigots (whether they hate Muslims, Christians or just people of all religions).  I dislike social media/combox warriors who think it makes them sound like an intellectual when they quote Bill Nye or Neil deGrasse Tyson or other pop-science celebrities.  I am not especially fond of self-described progressives in general.

But if Hicks is guilty, and that appears quite likely, then he should be punished for intentionally killing three human beings who posed no threat either to himself nor to anyone else.  He should not be punished for being a liberal democrat, an anti-religious combox warrior or for having terrible taste in media venues.  I may not like these attributes of Craig Hicks but it is repulsive to me that they would have any bearing on his trial or (if found guilty) his punishment.

If there was a developing pattern of murders motivated by left-wing ideology that would be a worthy topic of social inquiry and political discussion.  Even in that hypothetical situation, however, common sense tells us that the individual case of Craig Hicks should still be decided solely on the basis of whether or not he knowingly and deliberately killed three innocent people.

The rationale (if it can be called that) of the advocates of hate crime legislation would lead to the conclusion that the murder of these three students would merit an investigation with less resources if they were killed over a parking dispute and that the murderer would merit a lighter punishment if he took their lives for a piece of pavement.  I cannot think of a more obvious example of sentimentality run amok in our justice system.