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Jonathan Wolfman's Blog
MARCH 19, 2012 6:54AM

On the Tyler Clementi Case & Hate-Crime Verdict

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                           Tyler Clementi

 

                                              Rutgers University
                                                                                               

                         Dharun Ravi guilty in Rutgers spy case Dharum Ravi

    

     The bias-crime conviction of Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi for intimidating fellow student, Tyler Clementi (who soon after dove from the George Washington Bridge) leaves me in a strange place.

    
     I'm pleased his jury found Mr. Ravi guilty after he turned down a plea offer that would have largely resulted in community service. That Mr. Ravi had a clear hand in Mr. Clementi's taking his life after Mr. Ravi electronically spied on him in his dorm while the former was with another man and then broadcast the intimacies on the net was never in question. What his lawyers questioned and asked the jury to buy was that what Mr. Ravi did didn't amount to criminality but was a contemporary version of behaving like a more-or-less typical college jackass prankster and, they argued, we don't consider that criminal.
    
    
     Except that a young man did die and the jury returned a resounding guilty verdict.
    
    
     I've no doubt this verdict will not only serve as legal precedent, but it will force college and university deans throughout the country to augment the guidelines and rules and the tech-use statements all students must sign. Some schools (middle and high schools, too) may well have already revisited their student handbooks when news of Mr. Clementi's suicide broke in 2010. When simply speaking offensively online can be shown to have contributed as active bullying and pretty directly to a death, that speech is not necessarily so simple and the law isn't necessarily required to protect that speech. If Good does come from this horrid and sad incident, that understanding and the handbook revisions will be the Good. The verdict, too, may well serve as a check on the urge to translate into action whatever motivates people who play so loosely with others' lives. I'm pleased Mr. Ravi may now serve a prison term and that he may well be deported to India, his home-nation.
    
    
     At the same time and as my longtime readers know, I'm not in favor of hate-crimes laws and our national life since the 2010 election serves only to strengthen my view.
    
     
     Hate-crimes laws are a mistake however well-intended.
    
     Most of my readers also know that I'm a writer and an activist in the LGBT struggle for thoroughgoing legal equality. As some of you also know, I'll deliver on 21 April the keynote at the Washington, DC leg of a series of close to thirty world-wide Equality Marches and Rallies to be held that day. I will do that with conviction and verve and hope, as my writing/activism would lead anyone to see.
    
    
     Nevertheless I think hate-crimes laws are a mistake because they criminalize thought and not just actions -- they turn thoughts, in fact, into acts and deem some ideas despicable enough to add years to sentences for criminal acts (such as battery and such as intimidation).
    
    
     I have two concerns.
    
    
     First and more important we ought not under our Constitution criminalize ideas no matter how hateful, shameful, filthy. We should be about criminalizing bad acts and punishing them hard and not the social ideas that may underlie them no matter how odious. Throw the bum in prison, yes, force restitution if at all practicable, yes, but do that for what the bum actually does, not for his ideas, however stupid and vicious.
    
    
     I'd say this about people who target gays, Jews, black people, any traditionally or newly targeted group. Adding years to a traditional sentence because we deem it a hate-crime may dissuade other hateful people from committing sickening acts but to date there is no indication that hate-crimes legislation does that. As years go on, this may well change and I'd like to follow available data over time. I am, however, skeptical. There is no less of a collective murder and attempted murder rate in the states with the death penalty than in the states without it. It seems hard, then, to think that adding five years to a battery sentence because the bad person can be shown, say, to hate Jews, will deter assaults on religious minorities.
    
    
     Second, protecting groups that have been unduly afflicted may seem laudable, and in concept, of course, it is. Legislatures and Congress, though, as we have seen in the past few years, are (I'll be kind here) at best quirky and can take on very nasty, hateful causes in the guise of decency.
    
    
     Progressives ought to realize that the vagaries of cultural change and the whims of legislatures are such that it is hardly only we who have a lock on this.
    
    
     Is it that tough to imagine asinine state legislatures calling all or some abortions a hate-crime, characterizing women who choose to exercise their constitutional rights as "hateful of innocent life"? Before you answer, think on all the lunatic legislation that has come out of Nebraska, Florida, Texas, and other states since 2010. In a nation where states such as Arizona are now considering legislation that would force women to get doctors' notes showing that birth control pills were prescribed for something other than birth control...in such a nation as ours is now, is a hate-crimes provision in some wacky and highly restrictive reproductive-health law so unthinkable?
    
    
     Do you honestly think Progressives are the only people who can deploy bias/hate-crimes legislation? Do you really think it's impossible for a regressive legislature to use such laws to target the very same groups Progressives brought hate-crimes laws into existence to protect? Why, for instance, couldn't the South Carolina or Idaho legislature write a hate-crimes law to add years to the sentences of  people whom we well might argue were defending themselves against rather disorganized but known Klan-like hooligans? Given the last few years of legislating in the states, how can any Progressive imagine that we've now and for good cornered the market on hate-crimes laws' possibilities?
    
    
     I am, as I say, pleased that the young man who so clearly contributed to Tyler Clementi's death has been found guilty of intimidation. I'm pleased the precedent's been set. I'd be even more pleased were he to have been found guilty without resort to, without reliance on, bias/hate-crimes laws. They strike at the heart of our commitment to freedom of thought by turning ideas into crimes, they may offer minorities no added safety, and they may be used effectively by very awful people who do not share a progressive, expansive world-view.
    
    
     We need to punish and punish hard people such as Dharum Ravi. We need to punish them for their bad acts, not for their ideas.

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I have no doubt that we can find better ways ways to protect people and w.o resort to measures that undermine the last refuge of personal/Constitutional freedom, our ideas.
#1Jon, I would like to hear how your compare hate crimes to stalking. (restraining order) I don't think victims of hate crimes/bullying in some instances are afforded, under the law, the same protection.

#2 Are words of assault " You little Jewish Kike" different from the stones thrown at my father on his way to school?

#3..Words can kill. We know that yelling Fire in a crowded theater can cause a stampede. Do we judge by intent or deed?

Not sure.....
+In a sense, every crime is a hate crime...I agree with your reasoning, especially over this tragic event. You are correct, that we are going up a very slippery slope....
Ande none of this is utterly cut and dry tho I don't think we gain by hate-crimes statutes that ADD years to sentences for bad acts and I do think we lose when we do that. Hurling stones is an act, using nasty names for Jews/gays, black people...are acts.
Ray I think that's the issue; yes. Thanks very much!
Ande in criminal law intent is not unimportant, of course, bc w.o it we'd have no murder-1 charges, for instance...we'd have murder-2 and manslaughter charges pretty exclusively.
Whenever something happens that takes over the news cycle for a few weeks, they make a law. Some are good, I, like you, am withholding judgement on the Hate Crime law. But, a terrorist act gave us the Patriot Act and the Occupy movement has given us two more bills, soon to be laws I think, that strip our rights away bit by bit, step by step. A very slippery slope!
Scanner and it's not as if I don't think we must protect minorities from the worst instincts in people in the majority; I do and always have. This way, via hate-crimes laws, buys us more trouble, I think.
As far as coming up with conclusive evidence about deterrence, I imagine that that it would be hard to establish. But in a case like Clementi's, I would think that its surrounding publicity would make some folks think twice before committing similar acts of persecution. Still, you make a good argument and I'm rethinking my own position.
Abra and as I say here, I'm pleased w the case's potential deterrent-value.
I agree with you. We should only punish for acts and not thoughts. If we don't where do we draw the line?

Rated.
Bud and who draws those lines? It may not always be us. Thank you!
I agree fully with your conclusions.
This site is driving me nuts! I posted a comment on FB as i couldn't sign in here...and then...i could..sigh..
Jonathan, I believe writing and speaking are very powerful actions. If people use them to propagate hatred or incite violence against others, that is an action that should be punishable by law. If I have a thought, it is not a crime, but if I communicate it to spread hate and violence, then I am taking action. In Rwanda, for example, I read the genocide was incited in large part by the mainstream media encouraging it...just words, but leading to the death of between half a million to a million people. On Wickipedia it says, "They incited Hutu civilians to participate in the killings or be shot in turn, using radio broadcasts to tell them to kill their Tutsi neighbours. " Just thoughts, just words?

By the same token, isn't all the activism you take part in, writing and speaking for LGBT legal equality, action?

Any law can be used against innocent people, and sometimes for purposes not originally intended, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't make those laws and try to uphold them fairly.
ink probs w this site!? say it ain't so! :) i did see your comment at fb and i responded thank you!
Clay I believe we're in agreement here.
It's true Mr. Ravi was a jackass to do what he did. It was cruel, and more importantly he invaded Mr. Clementi's privacy. There should be some penalty for that (expulsion for sure), but I do not agree with the excessive charges and harsh sentence. If Clementi hadn't committed suicide it is unlikely the case would have come this far, which is unfair to the defendent. The suicide should not be held against him.

For Clementi, the humiliation he suffered may have been a tipping point, but most would not have reacted in such an extreme way. I suspect he was already troubled, perhaps because of his sexual orientation, perhaps not. Either way, Mr. Ravi couldn't have known his actions would lead to a tragic death. Not to sound insensitive to the plight of a troubled young man, but... ultimately the choice to take his own life was Clementi's alone.
BSB of course it was his to decide; I am ok w punishing Mr. Ravi for intimidation and I'm persuaded Mr. Ravi's act was a contributor to Mr. Clementi's taking his life even tho it was the latter's choice in the end.
My concerns w hate-crimes legislation remains.
Forgot to mention, I agree with you about the hate crimes legislation. Prosecute the bad act, indeed.
I think the trouble I have with this whole case is I can imagine my own child on either side. Tyler was shy, gay, troubled, and humiliated beyond belief. Ravi spied on him and then tweeted it to hundreds of friends. Dorm life is living in a giant fishbowl, and to have your intimate self outed must have been agonizing.

However, Ravi was a common, garden-variety teenage jackass. A hateful, arrogant, thoughtless jackass. Like a thousand teens before him, like a thousand teens after. I like to hope my own children would never do anything like that, but kids do stupid, thoughtless things and don't consider the consequences. Ravi is someone's son too. I find it interesting that Ravi had the chance for a plea deal and community service, and turned it down.

I go round and round. I don't have any answers. There's no good outcomes here.

I agree that thought shouldn't be punished. Only deeds.
Hope this makes sense to everyone so, here goes. We don't need hate crime laws, Hate crimes as defined are already crimes. What we need to do is have our courts recognize that we all share the same rights and that who we choose to have sex with is as meaningless as the color of our eyes.

I would go so far as to say that by segregating groups as the focus of a "hate Crime Law" we legitimize the acts of prejudice. There should be no question of a persons race/gender/ethnicity or sexuality. It is against the law to vandalize so the vandals should be prosecuted and punished, their individual prejudice plays no part in determining if they are guilty. It is against the law to Peep or to secretly show the intimate parts of everyone's lives so how is the sex of the people who's privacy was violated a factor? End sentencing guidelines for judges but allow for the quick removal of judges that use the bench to allow for their own opinions and base trials in fact not conjecture or personal prejudice.

The U.S. constitution allows for one of the most fair and impartial legal systems that has ever existed, why have we allowed it to become such an unfair and biased system? WE allow our judges to base decisions on their personal beliefs and we encourage lawyers to use every game of semantics that they can be taught in order to influence the courts. Playing word games with peoples lives is not the goal of our judiciary, finding the truth and applying the law equally to all individuals who stand before the bar is.
I'm still scratching my head over this verdict. Part of me loves the idea that intolerable cruelty be considered a crime . Part of me doesn't feel sure that Ravi's acts constitue a crime, much less a hate crime. Only in the instance of suicide will such laws apply? What if Ravi's acts had no real bearing on the suicide? Did Ravi really hate gay people? Too many questions since I don't know much about the case , other than want I hear in sound bites.
Such laws, as you note, will be abused beyond any imagining. And such laws will be selectively enforced- the rich and powerful will be immune. Well reasoned post, Jonathan.
Fernsy thanks; we almost wholly agree.
I agree with your blog but think we need to catch some of these people before their ideas get carried through.
HUGGGGGGGG
Linda I really think we can punish these people w.o resort to very flawed laws.
I'm conflicted about this whole situation. I read that Ravi had emailed an apology to Tyler, just as Tyler was already on his way to kill himself. And I think what Ravi was doing was an impulsive, stupid- kid kind of thing. On the other hand, tow people selected out Matthew Shepherd specifically because he was gay and did horrible things to him, bringing about his death. Maybe it's about personal responsibility and Ravi should have stood up and said he did this thing that led to another persons death, instead of putting the parents through a trial. The jury said they convicted based on Ravi's posting on two separate occasions. Apparently once is excusable, but twice isn't?
cc if you have seen the contents of the separate postings I'd like to have you share them here. Thanks!
Tor and that's the point, no? Bullying that can be shown to have contributed to a death should be prosecuted w.o a need for the law to add time for "bad thoughts".
Punish actions, not words, and beware how hate crime laws can be subverted. I get your point, but I still struggle with the corrosiveness of hate spewed by right leaning, incendiary talk. I consider myself a Progressive, and I know there are some left leaning radio and TV personalities that do their share of ranting and name calling. It’s a matter of degree. To my knowledge, left leaning diatribes don’t usually suggest violent actions. But quibbling over intent leaves the accused dependent upon the subjectivity of the judge/jury. At first I felt your strongest argument was that the death penalty is not a deterrent to murder, but the argument that gives me pause is how the law could be abused.
beauty yes; it gives me real pause, too.
Good post. I agree. Think how often extreme cruelty results from imputing motive to behavior which, of itself may be benign. Punish the act, not the motive, the crime, not the person.
Balt you raise fresh concerns and I'm grateful.
As to legal precedent, while the NJ case would not be binding in any way on other states, it can act as a precedent in the non-technical sense that prosecutors and juries will know they're not breaking new ground.
As to handbooks and tech-use statements, my bet is that they're under review now.
It is instructive that both the convicted, and his accomplice, who I've not read anything more about, are both descended from cultures that coddle primitive tribal hatreds which were then multiplied by the frat boy/mean girl traditions of our hallowed universities.

That said, it is, especially in a Salon, highly important to remember that the "Left" is also capable of overeach, and, in fact, some of what the so-called conservative movement used to represent in the pre-Klan Buckley days was overeach in business regulations, forced busing in public schools, and so forth.

Because the highly primitive authoritarian mind (being generous to lizard brains here) particularly in its right wing sect, but also the far left (back in the USSR!) is incapable of introspective thought, empathy or compassion, it is an absolute must that us so-called Progressives not just preach truth to power, but also admit when we are wrong, correct overreach, and, most importantly, stand on all principal as a role model for the rest of the world. When we stoop to hypocrisy, as the US has done since the Cheney/Rove/Simian presidency, we lose everything, as we lost respect, and we are nothing, as we are no longer setting a proper example for those less fortunate or uneducated.

It is a lot like true parenting, something which was sorely lacking in the now convicted defendant's case.

Imua (Onward)
Oahu interesting points; I'm unaware of how this young man's parents raised him.
Hi Jonathan, I read about Ravi's apology on Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams, 3/16/12, "What's the right sentence for hate?" paragraph 5. I can't manage copying the link with my iPad, so I hope that's ok.
But we already punish thought, intent and societal impact for crimes.

All things being equal the murder of a cop is treated more harshly than the shooting of another criminal, a everyday citizen, etc; the idea being that the murder of a public servant harms ALL of us, intimidates the populace, etc.

If you kill someone in the heat of the moment, it's treated harsher than if you planned it out weeks in advance.

So how is this different than the law treating assault that stems from being angry with someone vs. an assault that is purely motivated based on hating a race, sexual minority, religion, etc. When someone commits these types of crimes they're trying to intimidate, hurt and violate an entire group of people, it's not just that person.

The nature of your intent and the objectives behind your crimes are already punished for multiple types of crimes that aren't in the category of hate crimes, SO if you claim that hate crime laws are unconstitutional than so are laws that say:

"Possession with intent to distribute"
"Premeditated murder"
Categorizing a crime as "terroristic", whether it's mere threats or full fledged terrorism
Prosecuting shooting a cop harsher than shooting a shop keeper even if the circumstances are the same

List goes on for ages.

You can think all the vile thoughts you want, you can write down all the vile thoughts you want, but when you act on thoughts in a way that supports a larger agenda of hate and intimidation it's worse than just mere assault or murder.

I.e. if a sexual, racial or religious minority is murdered in a neighborhood because someone wants to steal their car, money, robs their house or is just angry at that person, it scares people sure, but other people aren't worried about additional violence.

Commit the same crime purely out of hate and now everyone in the community who is part of that group is on edge, worried if they're next, people think of moving, other bigots are emboldened, etc, it's perfectly logical to punish those crimes harsher.

Let's not forget that hate crime statutes were instrumental in punishing all sorts of hate crimes in the south that were committed as part of the fight against civil rights.

What people are missing is that you're not being punished for HAVING an idea, you're being punished for ACTING on certain types of ideas. It's not just the old excuse of "just because he said a slur during the crime doesn't make it a hate crime" or "crimes that cross ethnic groups", it's about the larger intent to intimidate, assault or attack an entire group.

It's about crimes that could result in say straight people feeling safe in a neighborhood, while Gays are afraid to hold hands in public.

Hence the reason if you kill cops en masse because you hate the police, it's viewed as terrorism/an act against the state, as opposed to being treated like a serial killing directed towards cops.

Make sense?

Finally, if you study your history you'd know that a lot of the resistance to hate crime laws didn't come from constitutional purists it came from racist southerners who were angry about people getting acquitted on crimes against Blacks in the south via jury nullification and corruption and then getting convicted at the federal level.

I.e. it started as a smoke screen created by people who wanted to get away with committing crimes whose motivation was purely hate.

So until we're going to get rid of all the intent and impact based punishments for other crimes (that I don't the anti-hate crime people complaining about) I say we leave the hate crimes laws alone.
I agree with you Jonathan but I'm glad that one can get into big trouble for being an asshole because you can.
Ideally, I agree with you. But real life makes me think that Hate Crime legislation is important. There is a difference, based on intimidation or threat to an entire group. I do understand your concern about it being used by some fundies...
As an aside. I have to wonder if Mr. Ravi would have been convicted had he been white. I'm serious about that.
Another thought provoking post from you!
r./
Markham I appreciate your comments even as I do not agree w a good deal of what you say.

Of course the issue of intent to commit crimes comes into play...and I think you may have mispoken when you say, above, that we punish more harshly when a murder is not planned out...clearly we punish more harshly when a murder is planned.

But I'm not speaking of the general notion of legal intent to harm. I'm speaking of ideas that otherwise are protected under law, such as antiSemitic attitudes. As stupid and vicious as anti-Semitism may be, our Constitution allows a person to hold such a idea in her head. What law does not and should not allow is unjustified killing and battery no matter if one is a bigot or no, and in the case here, intimidation and this sort of public humiliation-as-sport.

I see no value in adding years to sentences bc of presumed or displayed prejudice. No criminological study has suggested there is added value, in lessening crimes against minorities, or any other value.

And, as I argue here, we progressives ought to realize how fast the political climate changes we've witnessed in Congress and the states could manipulate hate-crimes laws in ways that would harm gene=der, religious, and racial minorities.
devil sure; a lotta morons and jerks get in trouble w.o an iota of bigotry moving them.
OnIsland had Mr. Ravi been white it may well, yes, have been treated differently.
your post shows tremendous courage and integrity -- making ideas crimes is dangerous and will backfire eventually
Nice, clear thinking about hate-crime laws, Jonathan. Thanks for laying it out.
Don't bad/evil ideas often generate bad/evil acts? It's a hard call. Not sure where I stand on the hate crime category.
Kathy thank you very much.
Erica I fully understand the thinking behind hate-crimes laws and I am 'with them' in my heart but as social policy my head and my sense of our future says No.
Karen thanks very much. :)
I feel the same way about gun control laws. There are adequate laws on the books now, but they're haphazardly enforced.
Matt interesting analogy! Thanks!
I don't know who Markham Lee is but he makes a very clean case. "What people are missing is that you're not being punished for HAVING an idea, you're being punished for ACTING on certain types of ideas" is way good. Sometimes you can put a firewall on what looks like a slippery slope, a boundary that keeps the trend from going from reasonable to draconian or just absurd, and that's where I tend to disagree with you when it comes to free speech. I don't think that the hate crime category inevitably leads to the end of free speech as we know it any more than I think that mandatory firearm registration leads inevitably to the confiscation of all civilian-owned firearms in America.
I have heard numerous conservatives proclaim that physical assaults on wealthy people, and property crimes against banks, et al, during protests or union agitation, if motivated by progressive economic ideas, Marxian ideas, or socialistic ideas, should be considered "hate crimes," because the wealthy are a distinct class of people, and should be considered a minority/protected class worthy of legal protection from a vicious, jealous majority.

I am not kidding. They are actually making this argument on the radio.
Kosh I don't believe nor have I suggested that hate-crimes laws spell the end or lead to the end of free speech. I think they do violate the idea that we should not be punished for our hateful ideas, just for our bad actions.
RW makes one of my points w an interesting example.
Hate crime laws are more severe because the crimes affect more than just the immediate victim. The are there as an additional punishment because of the additional harm done.

Additionally, if you take every existing hate crime off the books, how does that keep the neocons from putting in place their offensive laws? Why give up the modicum of protection that hate law legislation provides for nothing??? (and please don't give me the constitutional argument. There's nothing unconstitutional about them.)
I'm inclined to agree with Jonathan. There is already well defined legislation against assault and battery, and most of the stuff categorized as "hate speech" can be prosecuted as incitement.
Markham writes: " . . . when you act on thoughts in a way that supports a larger agenda of hate and intimidation it's worse than just mere assault or murder. "

The New Jeresy bias/intimidation laws go far beyond the intention of the perpetrator. The statue states that a bias/intimidation crime is also committed when there are circumstances such that:

" . . . the victim, considering the manner in which the offense was committed, reasonably believed . . . that the offense was committed with a purpose to intimidate the victim . . ."

In New Jersey an intent to intimidate is not a necessary element of the crime of intimidation. You can be guilty of the crime of intimidation if the victim BELIEVES that you intended to intimidate him, even if that was not your intention.

Markham: "So until we're going to get rid of all the intent and impact based punishments for other crimes (that I don't [hear] the anti-hate crime people complaining about) I say we leave the hate crimes laws alone."

There is a difference between intent and motivation. If I have a large quantity of drugs that I'm going to sell, I am committing one crime (possession) and intending to commit another crime (sale of drugs). Hate crimes laws are not about intent, but about motivation. E.g., I assault you because I don't like your religion.

Intent is often easy to determine; motivation isn't. For those concerned about civil liberties, I suggest that hate crimes laws will turn the State into Big Brother. In ascertaining motivation Big Brother will look through your emails and your blog, look at the books you read, interrogate your friends and coworkers, read your personal diary and letters, look at what organizations you belong to, examine where you spend your money, scan your computer, and look at the web sites you visit. In the search for "evidence" of "bias" there are no limits, and everything in your life history is fair game.

Every society has its taboos, and when a societal taboo is violated, the offender must be severely punished, often in a manner that astounds outsiders. For example, in Thailand you can get a 20 year sentence for insulting the king. In Saudi Arabia you can be executed for insulting Islam. In the U.S. the latest taboo is "bigotry" or "intolerance," and someone deemed to be a bigot or intolerant is beyond the pale, worthy of the harshest punishment. This is why for being a peeping tom, an immature 18 year old kid now faces a potential prison sentence longer than what some rapists and murderers get, and Jonathan hopes "that he may well be deported to India, his home-nation."
This wouldn't have been a hate crime under proper definition, in my opinion. In fact, the term hate crime is a misnomer. Hate motivation is a better fit, and in that, it dovetails with the idea of motivation and guilty mind. As I have said before, the hate motivation charge is most useful in harassment issues where the rational sanction for minor crimes doesn't effectively deter the act. It would be unreasonable to charge somebody who burns a cross in front of a black or Jewish family's house with a mere civil infraction such as illegal burning in the city limits. It would also be unreasonable to change the sanction for illegal burning to encompass the same sort of deterrence you'd want for cross burning.
Hatred can describe the condition of a guilty mind, just as can revenge or irrational fear. The idea somebody can be charged for a thought alone is absurd, as is applying hate without ample evidence it was a motivation. I don't know whether your objection to the characterization of that motivation is because you think it can never apply or be known beyond a reasonable doubt, or if you think it can be a charge independent of an act. If the latter, it shouldn't ever be independent of an act. If the former, then I disagree with your thinking.
It was a violation of the kid's right to privacy, but the suicide wasn't predictable nor was it Ravi's fault. You say he had a clear hand in Clementi's death, but I think that's unreasonable. You project the tangential result as Ravi's responsibility when it wasn't. You assign responsibility for the death to an act that wasn't responsible in a direct enough manner to make that claim, yet you think hatred as a motivational factor in determining a charge wrongly projects the perpetrator's thoughts into the charge. I don't see how you can logically align the two thoughts.

I think the verdict should be appealed and overturned. He violated Clementi's right to privacy and had no motivation other than a prank, albeit an illegal one. Holding him responsible for the death and convicting him according to an unpredictable result is wrong, and makes the same kind of projection you say shouldn't be made. In this case there was no hate motivation and there also was no direct, predictable responsibility on Ravi's part for Clementi's death.
Paul: certainly, ideological hatred can be looked at in terms of establishing a general mens rea, which is needed for linkage to a specific actus reus, for a criminal charge.

That said, should a specific intent to cause harm, coupled with actual harm, result in a higher sentence if said "specific intent" be the result of racial hatred, rather than another type of equally perfidious motivation (a general desire to kill and/or dismember)?

I totally agree that bias/hate can comprise the factors analyzed in terms of establishing, for example, a specific intent "mens rea."

I just wonder if we can dole out different sentences for specific intent crimes, if the specific intent/motivation came from an ideological source, rather than a personal source?
RW00,
I think that it doesn't matter if it's personal or ideological when it comes to the act itself. I think the same can be true of the motivation, but if, for example, the perp had horrible parents that infused him with the idea gays should be sanctioned according to Biblical laws, the jury might decide that is mitigating. They may just as well decide that didn't matter. It's when the crime is committed that the ideological becomes personal.
However, in capital crimes, the sanction is enough to deter, at least in concept. Generally, it only stops those with rational thoughts, and murder isn't rational thought. In such cases, hatred can be introduced to prove guilty mind, but the fact that makes the crime more egregious makes no difference given the crime is already sanctioned with the upper limit.
That's why I say, generally speaking, it is more useful in cases where the individual acts constitute a pattern of harassment in acts that, considered alone, aren't overly egregious. Gay hater breaks gay's window, pays the criminal penalty, figures it didn't really cost much, does it again. Pattern emerges, no other reason but irrational hatred is established by reasonable exclusion of other motivations. Also, the level of evidence required should be set high enough to transcend any consideration that the hatred doesn't stand alone as the primary motivation. For example, revenge might invoke hatred, but hatred isn't the primary motivation. Gay guy's dog routinely craps in perp's yard, perp takes it upon himself to teach a lesson is not a hate crime, even if he slurs the gay guy with epithets directed at his orientation.

Merely hating gays and acting on that thought alone would bring the extension of sanction beyond other typical considerations. Then, of course, if the charge is murder 1, it's used to establish mens rea, but can't be considered in sentencing. You can't execute somebody twice, and 3 life sentences w/o parole is merely symbolic.
In summation, used but used cautiously and without any political considerations. I smell politics in this case, even though it wasn't a hate crime. The appellate court is more removed from politics and there's where the true level of justice can be applied.