Thursday, May 24, 2007

Eco-terrorism Case Revisited

Last night I posted about a group of radical environmentalists that may be sentenced as terrorists and today I ran across a discussion over at TMV between Shaun Mullen and Captain Ed of Captain's Quarters that originally started about hate crime legislation but moved on to include terrorism laws.

Captain Ed stated:
"This is the problem with hate-crime legislation — and perhaps with terrorist legislation as well . . .Both specifically criminalize motive, rather than leave them as a component of an objective crime itself. Beating up a gay person should carry the same penalties whether hate motivated it or not. Similarly, terrorism as a civil crime (ie, not in the context of foreigners attacking the U.S.) also creates a thought-police mentality that is pretty seductive to people determined to stamp out evil — in their subjective opinion of it."


"I’m starting to think that hate crimes and terrorism designators both take us down a dangerous road. If the criminal act doesn’t carry enough deterrent through normal penalties, then increase the penalties for everyone who commits them — whether it be battery, arson, or murder. Let the motivation prove the crime rather than become a crime in itself. Otherwise, we invite a thought-police mentality that will ensnare American liberty more than it does evil."

He probably does a better job than I did of getting my point across.

Additionally over at the LA Times there is a piece written by the sister of one of the persons convicted in which she does raise a decent point:

"And nearly 10 years ago, he burned down a horse slaughterhouse in Redmond, Ore. It is for this final act that the U.S. government considers him among the ranks of Osama bin Laden, Eric Rudolph and Ramzi Ahmed Yousef."

"If you call my brother a lawbreaker, I won't argue. But labeling him a terrorist dilutes the meaning of terrorism. And you demean all the Americans, and all those around the world, who have died in real terrorist acts."

The more I think about it the more I dislike motive based sentencing. It seems to me that it would be easier to prove and ultimately more effective to enact an "organized and premeditated" sentencing enhancement that would, in the case of hate crimes, be universally fair and in the case of terrorism be universally applicable regardless of the level of death or destruction.