Good morning.  I must have fallen asleep with the television on, and never quite made it to my bedroom last night.  I know this because I work up to the sound of Robin Meade talking about a horrible crime that apparently involved some sort of torture.  I caught the tail end of the conversation, the part where she asked her distinguished guest about the factors that go into determining to charge someone with a ‘hate crime.’  If I recall correctly, she asked the question, “What goes into determining if something is a ‘hate crime,’ which by the way is, in my opinion, an excellent question.

Although it’s a bit early, even for me, to get into the details of what goes into determining if something is a ‘hate crime,’ I anxiously awaited to hear the response from Ms. Meade’s guest, because this is a topic for a research paper I did in college, and besides feeling as though I was watching Jeopardy and actually know the answer to the proposed question, I think it’s a very important topic and one which so many people misunderstand.  And then it happened, her distinguished guest failed miserably at answering her question.  Maybe he got to provide the answer eventually, but he lost me when he started to discuss public opinion, and how this particular crime is one that public opinion had already swayed and in the eyes of public opinion this crime should be labeled a ‘hate crime.’  The problem is the guest did not answer Ms. Meade’s question, which might have been by design, but should public opinion decide if something is a ‘hate crime.’ And, at the risk of reiterating Ms. Meade’s question, what factors go into determining if something should be labeled a ‘hate crime’ or not, and why is it so important?  Do you know?

It’s issues like this that, I think, the public should know.  Maybe not all the details but at least the overall general issues so that we do not get carried away when it comes to determining an opinion about something without having a good understanding of what we’re talking about.  Legal issues are complicated, and the justice systems in the United States are complex.  Just because something seems to be one thing on the surface, does not make it so.  What’s a ‘hate crime’ and why does it matter if a prosecution takes time before determining to charge someone with such a crime might not be so simple.  Depending upon the state law or federal law, the factors involving such a matter could be very important, especially when it comes to sentencing.  A person’s motivation for committing a crime might not always be apparent early on, and it’s wise for law enforcement to do their jobs thoroughly, and then equally wise for a prosecution team to do their job thoroughly, before rushing to judgment.  The only thing that’s somewhat ironic is that when they do, there are those in the media who seem to feel that they take too long and that they should allow public opinion to be a dominant force.  What happens when public opinion steers the ship when it comes to prosecution?  especially when that public is not educated in the law?