OPINION: Human life ought to be worth more than misdemeanor status

“The prosecution of hate crimes and the enforcement of federal civil rights laws is one of the highest priorities of the United States Attorney’s Office. Anyone who commits these pernicious crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
- United States Attorney Stephen J. Murphy
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
- Martin Luther King Jr.
“Hate: It has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.”
- Maya Angelou

All the talk about hate crimes – what is and what isn’t – has me puzzled.
Do I think a person found guilty of killing someone because of race or gender or sexual orientation or religion should be given a punishment worthy of the crime?
Absolutely.
But I’ve always pretty much thought anytime someone takes the life of another human being – for any reason – it’s a hate crime.
Hate is hate. Killing is killing. Period.
So, let’s take a specific crime, shall we?
Last September in Washington, D.C., 37-year-old Tony Randolph Hunter and a friend were attacked on their way to a bar.
The attackers? Four young men, including 18-year-old Robert Hannah, who was arrested after the attack that sent Hunter’s friend to the hospital. Hunter’s head injury from Hannah’s assault put him in a coma. He died 10 days later.
The incident was first called a hate crime; then robbery was added as a motive – Hunter’s keys, cash and cell phone were missing. Later still, the incident, despite a death, was downgraded to an altercation.
Last week, a grand jury indicted Hannah on the charge of misdemeanor assault. His maximum possible sentence for taking a man’s life is 180 days in jail.
Outrageous.
Should it make one whit of difference that all involved were black? It shouldn’t.
Should it matter one bit that the man who survived the attack and the man killed were gay and their four attackers straight? It certainly should not.
If the truth sustains that justice is blind, all that should matter is that a human life was taken by another human being.
And that alone is a tragedy and a travesty.
But that members of a grand jury held one man’s life in such disregard as to call his death a misdemeanor is beyond comprehension.
And they should be ashamed.
Contact Leslie Criss at leslie.criss@djournal.com or (662) 678-1584.

Leslie Criss/NEMS Daily Journal