Love Crimes, Hate Crimes, and...


By William Westmiller

During one media reprieve from infamy, O.J. Simpson said, "Assume that I killed her. It was only because I loved her so much." This chilling concession isn't uncommon. Most violent crimes are "love crimes", motivated by an intimate relationship that has dissolved into the inflamed passions of jealousy and anger. We all would, if we could, but can't, expunge the ill consequences that can flow from the failures of the highest and noblest passion of all, love for another. Yet, no one suggests that these crimes warrant a more severe punishment, simply because they were motivated by lost love. They may actually evoke pity and a lesser penalty. That is the humane face of deliberative justice, which is quite distinct from the critically different element of established intent.
English common law has long recognized intent as a valid mitigating factor in crime. That's why we have clear distinctions between pre-meditated and passionate murders, manslaughter, and accidents. Though not always clearly demonstrable, intent always counts. The fundamental objective of all laws is (or ought to be) just deserts. Justice cannot be accomplished if there was no intent to cause injury. One factor in establishing intent is discovering motive. Showing a reason why the accused may have intended the crime can be circumstantial evidence of intent. Clear intent will bear on the severity of the accusation and the punishment. But, intent is not the crime and neither is motive. In various degrees and kinds, it is the act -and only the act - of inflicting injury that constitutes the crime, not the actor's mental inclination. Mitigating this principle of punishing bad acts can only damage justice.
The second most common motive for crime is hate. Frequently, it is as much self-hate as it is hatred of the intended victim. Like love, hate is just another human emotion that can overcome our better judgement. Hatred is not always an evil emotion. Because we hate crime, we punish the perpetrator. We hate the totalitarian despot who murders innocent subjects. Hatred can be justified by the extremes of evil. We can even hate the hatred that is unjust and erroneous. It is this later kind of hatred that has brought us "hate crimes". Is it contemptible to hate those who act violently on the basisof irrational prejudice and fear? Of course not. We ought to roundly condemn and correct those whose motives are either impure or perverted. That, however, is a process of persuasion and rational council, not the province of justice. Though their motives may be pernicious and damnable, it is only when they act on them that we can invoke the rule of law. Any other course brings us to the verge of "thought crimes".
Perhaps there are those who can honestly say that they harbor no prejudice toward anyone and never entertain irrational fears. The self-righteous among them will proceed quickly to claim that the also know what everyone else ought to think. The fools among them will proceed quickly to propose constraints and punishment on those who harbor any ill-conceived notions about the world or reality. And they are fools, not because their intent is bad, but because their penal acts would violate the fundamental principles of justice and civil discourse. For the ideals they love, they would exacerbate and entrench the hatred they fear.
Battling ill-founded hatred and fear is a task granted to every human. We ought to contribute in every way possible to improving communication, knowledge, and tolerance among those with different skin colors and different superegos. Rational discussion and civil debate is the only tool available to accomplish that end. Passing laws that impose criminal penalties on ill-will is little more than self-delusion. Free speech is nothing without free thought. Free thought requires trial and error before there can be learning. Executing every criminal, burning every book, banning every idea that fails to conform will not advance civilization. Expanding sanctions for crimes motivated by hatred will not advance justice.
When it comes to crime, there is one motive more horrendous than either love or hate. It is beyond thoughtless, crude or inhumane. The motive is: no motive at all. There are humans (if they can be called that) who get their pleasure from giving others pain. They have no hate or love for themselves or their victims. They have no respect for human, or any other variation, of life. They kill, maim, and destroy, not for profit or comfort, but purely for their own pleasure. They are the monsters of fiction and history. If there were any motive worthy of the most severe punishment, it would be no motive at all.
We want to understand motives in order to combat the root causes of crime. That's a worthy goal for education and persuasion, but adding incremental punishments of some motives over others accomplishes nothing. The fundamental principle of civilization, which must be exposed to our children and imposed on criminals, is that initiating force is never an acceptable solution to any problem. Hate or love as your will inclines, but only resort to violence in self-defense. Hate crime, hate the criminal if you must, but always love and cherish justice.

©1998, William Westmiller
California Coordinator of the Republican Liberty Caucus
Past Candidate for the Republican Nomination for (24CD) Congress
Former National Secretary, California Chairman, Libertarian Party
lovecrim.c14 ~870 Words

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