A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: Hate Crime

Hate Crime on “Valentine Road”

By Noah Forrest

In 2008 in Oxnard, California, a just-turned fourteen-year-old boy, Brandon McInerney, stood up in a classroom and shot a classmate, Lawrence King.  The shots were fatal.

This event is at the center of Marta Cunningham’s documentary, “Valentine Road,” which premiered on HBO on October 7 and is available On Demand and at HBO Go.

Ms. Cunningham’s film takes an even-handed look at the lives of both boys prior to the tragedy and the toll it took on their family, friends, and teachers.

Larry identified as transgender. Brandon was a bully who taunted Larry and others who seemed vulnerable.  Remarkably, the movie shows that the boys had more in common than anyone could have guessed, each suffering abuse a from young age at the hand of a family member or guardian.

Though there is evidence that Brandon was alternately threatened or enraged by Larry’s feminine clothes and alter-ego, Valentine’s Day brought things to a boiling point.

Larry asked Brandon, in front of Brandon’s friends, to be his Valentine.

In the film, a psychologist who testified for the defense explains that Brandon felt humiliated, even sexually harassed, by Larry’s request.   Brandon wasn’t mature enough, says the expert, to handle this unwanted attention.

The film raises many legal questions.  Brandon brought the gun to school with the express intention of shooting Larry. Should he have been tried as an adult?  Was killing Larry a hate crime?  LASIS investigates.

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On Trial for a Hate Crime: What are Hate Crimes and Why Does it Matter?

By John Kosa

Update at the end of this story

So I killed someone.  That makes me a bad guy?” asked Keith Phoenix as he was arrested for bashing in the skull of Jose Sucuzhanay on a chilly December night in Brooklyn.  The New York Times reported that prosecutors are saying “the crime was motivated by hate” and Phoenix and his friend Hakim Scott, are now on trial for murder as a hate crime, manslaughter and assault.

Many crimes are motivated by hate but hating someone is not a crime.  The defendants have pled not guilty to the charge of murder as a hate crime, and their lawyers are spending time in court denying the hate crime charge.

But The Times did not explain what makes a crime a hate crime – and why it matters.

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