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Tuesday, May 4, 1999

Smokey Briggs


By Smokey Briggs

Hate crime laws are

double-talking nonsense

There is such a thing as beating a dead horse. This year's rash of "hate crime" laws fits the description.

Unfortunately, while most of the whippers of dead horses are simply annoying, these people may do some damage to the legal system while they're whipping.

Just for the record, hate crime laws are double-talking nonsense supported by emotion, and perhaps fear.

Worse, they are nothing more than after-the-fact censorship — a sneaky attack on free thought and free speech by people who claim to be the First Amendment's best friend.

This is hypocrisy at its worst.

Worse still, they fail to accomplish anything, and will probably damage the criminal justice system in the process.

In the least such laws will bring contempt for the law. Those who consent to be governed will see through the faulty reasoning of these laws and have one more example of how our laws are often crafted by half-wits in search of a few half-witted votes.

Respect for the law will drop another notch. Anarchy will score a few more points.

Here in Texas, this new legislation was proposed by State Representative Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston).

According to Thompson's press release, the law would enhance penalties for hate crime perpetrators.

According to Thompson — most hate crimes are racist in nature; nearly one half of hate crime victims are black; 16 percent involve anti-gay prejudice; one in eight hate crimes are based on anti-white prejudice; and nearly one in eight hate crimes is based on prejudice against Jews, Christians, Moslems, Mormons, Hindi and other religious groups.

From these figures, it seems no group is safe.

In her arguments for this law Thompson makes the following points:

1) "All crimes are not hate crimes, as politicians pandering for the racist, anti-immigrant vote argue..."

2) "Hate crimes do not involve, as some opponents allege, punishing thought. Motive is a key element in proving many crimes: (such as) premeditated murder...."

3) There is nothing different between her hate crime legislation and enhanced penalties for those that hurt children under six, the elderly or peace officers.

Wrong, wrong and wrong again.

First, the racist, anti-immigrant remark is a cheap shot and not relevant to the argument.

Second, is it worse for someone to kill in cold blood for "hate" as opposed to money?

The end result is a dead human being.

In Texas we execute people for the act of murder. How much enhancement is necessary?

Perhaps we could tie them to a stake and let a girl scout troop take potshots at 500 yards with buffalo guns.

Third, motive is not an element in any crime. Perhaps she meant to say intent.

But you cannot equate intent with motive. Apples and oranges have more similarities.

Intent to kill is an element of proving murder. However, intent and motive are not the same thing.

Intent involves the will to do the act — to kill. Motive simply refers to the reason — the motivation.

Eventually, a jury must decide through common sense and evidence whether a person intended to kill.

Usually the intent can be inferred from the act — he picked up a club and hit the victim six times in the head.

Common sense dictates that a rational person swinging the club would intend the victim to die.

But this hardly rises to the elaborate head-game Thompson would thrust on juries.

This law will charge juries with getting inside of a defendant's head to determine his motivations for the crime.

Common sense and evidence won't be as useful here.

Perhaps Madame Seesall and her crystal ball can be brought in to testify.

Third, there is a world of difference between selecting a group of potential victims for special "protection" and providing all potential victims with special "protection" from certain hate-based crimes.

Because, when a child under six is the victim, we know it, every time.

When a peace officer is killed, there is no question as to the status of the victim.

But when an Asian woman kills and robs a black man, how do we figure out if her motive was economic gain or hate?

If there is a rebel battle flag pasted on the bumper of her car is it some proof that the crime was race/hate motivated?

Would a member of a fundamentalist Christian church have one strike against him if he were charged with assaulting a homosexual?

Do we want these kind of emotionally charged arguments flowing in a courtroom where the only purpose is to decide the cold facts of guilt or innocence?

The answer is no.

To do so is an underhanded attempt to control the thoughts of those we disapprove of, or in the least, to punish those who think thoughts that violate our sense of decency.

It is a threat of punishment for your past thoughts if you are ever charged with a crime.

Why do I care?

We're talking about criminals, right?

Because defendants aren't criminals until a jury finds them guilty.

And we don't need any emotionally charged "evidence" flying around in the court room when a jury is trying to determine the facts.

Their job is hard enough as it is.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Smokey Briggs is the editor and publisher of the Pecos Enterprise whose column appears on Tuesdays. He can be e-mailed at:

Guest Column

Chamber urges community to join and support

In an effort to keep the members of the Pecos Chamber of Commerce and the community aware of what your chamber is doing,  we will periodically publish an article "Your Chamber in Action" for the benefit of our fine community.

If our community hopes to improve its posture of prestige and greatness,  then we must analyze the causes of economic and social illnesses  within  our  community and  devise  cures  with strong doses of private initiative and capital rather than wait for the government to assuage the pain with a temporary sedative.  The members of the Chamber Board of Directors and the staff cannot run the chamber alone.  The program of  the  Pecos Chamber of Commerce is a job for the entire membership—if not the entire community.  As our chamber progresses, the need becomes apparent for more members, more money and more people to be involved.  Our chamber  is a voluntary partnership of businesses, organizations, professionals and individuals working  together  to  build  a healthy local economy and to improve the quality of life in Pecos and Reeves County.  Our community can succeed  if  we  all work together, and the chamber provides the perfect environment for continued community cooperation and success.

I will be providing a monthly written activity report to the Chamber Board of Directors.

I invite all businesses and individuals who are not members of the Chamber to consider joining the Pecos Chamber of Commerce so that together, we can move Pecos and Reeves County forward as we approach the new millennium.

Tom Navarette Rivera
Executive Director
Pecos Chamber of Commerce

Our View

School uniforms aren't cure-all

In the wake of the Columbine High School shootings people are searching for solutions to the perceived growing violence in our schools.

One solution gaining favor in many areas is a school uniform. The Columbine incident ties into this debate, but only loosely.
Most of the districts contemplating school uniforms are attempting to address gang-related crimes.

The perpetrators of the Columbine shootings hardly fit the mold of a street gang - despite the fact that they wore a distinctive "uniform" and eventually committed criminal acts.

The reasoning behind school uniform initiatives seems to be two-fold. One line of thought seems to be that by eliminating the ability of gang members to dress like gang members a gang's ability to operate will be hampered.


But this probably doesn't give enough credit to the ingenuity of human beings. Prisons have pretty severe uniforms and a huge gang problem.

A second line of thought seems to be that by adopting uniforms, non-gang members will be in less danger of accidentally wearing the wrong piece of clothing and incurring the anger of a gang.

In the recent past, "starter" jackets bearing the emblems and colors of professional sports teams have been blamed for assaults and murders — the non-gang member victims' only "crime" having been wearing the wrong article of clothing.

This argument has some merit.

A third argument in favor of uniforms is economic. These days, parents may save some money on school clothes if they can buy a couple of bland uniforms rather than a wardrobe full of this year's popular designs.

A fourth argument is that uniforms remove one more distraction  from the classroom.

For some or all of these reasons, some school districts may want to implement uniforms.

Proponents, however, should acknowledge that uniforms will not cure the social problems facing public schools. At best, they might be a step toward controlling some of these problems.

And at the cost of some degree of individuality — a trait Americans tend to embrace both physically and intellectually.

A less complicated and less invasive solution might be a strictly enforced dress code.

Your Views

Parents need to join fight against drugs and gangs

I wish to address the enormous problem we are having in trying to raise good productive children and citizens in our schools.

The horrible incident in Littleton Colorado should come as no surprise. We have the same identical ingredients, to fuel this type of catastrophy, right here in Pecos, Texas.

We know that dope and gang violence are prevalent in the school system and all around us. Everyone talks about it but no one does anything, all smoke, no fire.

The fact is that the smoke comes from our elected officials to suit the political climate.

The fire needs to come from a combination of parents, teachers and the law of the land.

It's not easy to tell a parent that he may have fallen short in raising his child. But the fact is that without the assistance of the concerned parent this project is an uphill fight and doomed to failure at the expense of our youth.

Pecos, Texas

Golf course improvements praised by out-of-towner

I have entered in golf tournaments all over West Texas for several years.

I play in Pecos at least once each year and often as many as three times a year.

I have always enjoyed the hospitality of the Pecos people and the management of the golf course.

The main reason I am writing this letter is to congratulate the County Commissioners for the changes in green keepers — the course is in fantastic condition the best shape that I have ever seen it in.

I understand they improved the water well and watering system and you can certainly tell it paid big dividends.

Kermit, Texas

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