small d, Big J

What Steven desJardins is interested in.
Monday, August 18, 2003
Two stories in the Washington Post's Metro section caught my eye today.

The first, D.C. Shooting Investigated as Hate Crime, deals with the murder of a transgendered prostitute. Allegedly, he gave someone a blow job, who then found out that 'she' was a 'he', came back with a gun, and shot him.

This doesn't intuitively fit my idea of what a 'hate crime' is. If somebody is going around shooting black people because they're black, then that's a more heinous crime than just shooting people randomly, because it makes a class of people feel targeted and afraid. If homosexual people are targeted for being homosexual, then it makes them afraid to display their sexual identity openly. These crimes are punished more severely than similar crimes without a hate component because they have social consequences which similar crimes don't have.

Now, this crime happened (assuming the police theory is correct) because the shooter was upset that the transgendered person was transgendered. So it could fit the letter of the hate crime law. But it isn't the sort of crime that strikes fear into the heart of the transgendered community. At worst, it strikes fear into the heart of transgendered prostitutes who conceal their true sex from their clients. I don't think this is a protected class under the law, and I don't think it should be. People have a right to their own sexual preferences, and part of that right is the right to be personally freaked out by homosexuality. I would rather get a blow job from a woman than from a man. I wouldn't feel severely traumatized, much less driven to a homicidal rage, if I found out that the 'woman' who gave me a blow job wasn't actually a woman, but I would be at least mildly upset. I would think that the person who had done this had deceived me--that he had an obligation to be open with information he should have known I might find very relevant--and I think that many people would be upset enough in that situation for it to be reasonably described as sexual violation.

That said, sexual violation is not grounds for summary execution. The attacker in this case should be tried for murder. But it seems like it should be ordinary murder, not as a hate crime.

The second story, Charges Dropped, Man's 'Victims' Take His Side has to do with a false imprisonment lawsuit. A man who matched the description of an elderly couple's mugger spent two weeks in prison, even after the woman said he definitely wasn't the attacker, and the man said he wasn't sure. An apartment employee did postively identify him, but videotape showed a more heavyset man with a receding hairline, which doesn't match the detainee. Furthermore, the gentleman in question worked as a passport courier, and embassy logs showed that he was a the Qatar embassy near the time of the crime. (Police asked a Qatar embassy guard whether he picked up anything that day, the guard said no, and they left. He did drop off documents.)

It's troublesome when police latch onto one suspect and discount evidence pointing away from that suspect. It's downright infuriating when they then go into cover-their-asses mode and insist against all logic that their initial theory is correct. Even now, after it's become apparent to anyone sane that he's innocent, police spokesmen say that they think he's guilty and they consider the case closed. The real criminal is still at large and is getting a free pass because the police don't want to find any evidence that they were wrong. That's malfeasance of the worst kind.


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