CRF Blog

Thoughts shouldn’t matter

by Bill Hayes

Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Dan McLaughlin argues that In hate-crime prosecutions, thoughts shouldn’t matter.

Hate crimes are damaging because they look like hate crimes — that’s how the crime sends the message of fear. A better-designed law would simply ask the jury to consider the objective facts — such as how the defendant encountered the victim or the use of racial epithets — and determine whether a reasonable observer would consider it a hate crime. If people witnessing an incident wouldn’t recognize it as a hate crime, scouring the defendant’s browsing history adds nothing to public safety.

An objective observer test would also eliminate the need to list particular forbidden motivations, a sticking point in parts of the country …. [more]