A criminal investigation is a form of applied science. It deals with the identification of facts and proving guilt among suspected criminals. However, it is important to note that a suspect is always innocent before they are deemed to be otherwise. They have to be proven guilty by a court of law.
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The process of criminal investigation includes thorough searches in areas where evidence is believed to lie. It also involves interviews with the suspect, interrogations, as well as collection and preservation of evidence. The evidence is used to prove that the suspect is guilty of the crime they are accused of in a court of law (Osterburg & Ward, 2013). Criminal investigators are recommended for this work because they are highly trained to deal with criminals (Craig, 2002).
Different types of criminal investigations can be carried out depending on the type of case. Intelligence gathering, criminal forensic, electronic surveillance, and intrusive investigation are some of these assessments. In this paper, the author is going to look into these elements of criminal investigation from the perspective of hate crime. To this end, a definition of this form of criminal procedure will be provided, together with some of its features and processes involved in its investigations. An example of a hate crime will be provided, together with the investigations carried out on this case and the verdict passed by the court.
Definition of a Hate Crime
Hate crimes have been reported in different jurisdictions around the world. Some of these cases have disrupted peace in these regions. Law enforcement agents have come up with different strategies to curb the vice in society. A number of investigations are carried out depending on the nature of the crime (Craig 2002).
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, approximately 10,000 incidences of hate crime are reported each year. It is not yet known if the crimes are reducing or increasing with time. Research indicates that assaults motivated by biases are more violent compared to other forms of hate crimes. Such aggravations are likely to cause serious injuries to the victim (Jacobs & Potter, 2000). Some of the victims of these assaults include homosexuals and other minority groups in society.
A hate crime is an example of offenses impacting negatively on the lives of people. It is a form of offense that is motivated by sexual, racial, or prejudice. It involves violence in one form or the other (Dunbar, 2006). Some of the cases reported are motivated by religion, race, disability, or sexual orientation. A hate crime is regarded to be against the laws of many nations because it infringes on the right of an individual. It impacts negatively on the individual’s ability to freely socialize with others in the society (Craig, 2002). Hate crimes have been around since World War I.
Features of a Hate Crime
There are various similarities between hate crimes and other forms of offenses. For example, all of them are against the laws of the nation, and they affect either the individual or the community (Dunbar, 2006). For an offense to qualify as a hate crime, it must meet a number of criteria. However, it is noted that statutory definitions may differ from one state to the other (Craig, 2002). In spite of this, it is important to note that a ‘hate’ crime does not only involve hate. Biasness towards something, somebody, or a given behavior may be regarded as an offense motivated by hatred.
Consequently, it is noted that these crimes are intended to harm or injure another person. The intended injury is either psychological or physical (Jacobs & Potter, 2000). It can be uttered in words or written down. Provided the action done is aimed at inflicting harm on another person; it is termed as a hate crime. Some terrorism activities in different places in the world are good examples of hate crimes (Severson, 2011). The activities come with messages intended to provoke a certain community or group of people in the society.
Investigating a Hate Crime
It is hard for criminal investigators to come up with evidence to prove a hate crime. Before a suspect can be proven guilty, the evidence must be deduced to link them to the crime. Most victims of hate crimes are affected emotionally. Some of them find it hard to make their feelings public. In situations where a victim is afraid of giving information to the investigators, then it becomes hard for the experts to establish the truth and access the evidence needed to convict the criminal (Osterburg & Ward, 2013).
Most of these offenses are provoked by race. As a result, the first step in investigations involves establishing the cause and motive behind the offense. The second most important part of investigating a hate crime involves accessing and assessing the nature of the injury caused (Phillips & Grattet, 2000). There are different types of injuries caused by this offense. One of them is a primary injury. It involves an act that causes material and emotional harm to the victim.
At this stage, medics may be involved to check the extent of the physical harm. However, it is not possible to measure the emotional harm caused by the victim. In addition, it is not easy to quantify the extent of the injury. Financial harm is another form of primary injury (Phillips & Grattet, 2000). It can be measured in terms of the losses an individual has incurred as a result of hate crime.
Investigators also look for secondary harm in the process of gathering information. The injury is caused by a lack of support after the crime. Most of the victims who have no access to support after been assaulted find it hard to recover from the incident. Many ends up suffering if no help is accorded to them. Investigators should approach these victims in a way that shows they understand their civil rights.
The persons in charge of the investigations, who include police officers in most cases, must guarantee the safety of the victim (Osterburg & Ward, 2013). Interviews and interrogations help the officers to gather information at this stage. While investigating, the police must have information about the tools used to perpetuate the hate crime. The process involves gathering evidence and organizing facts that prove the individual was assaulted, and the accused is guilty of the offense.
Different types of bias indicators have to be checked during the investigation. Investigators must gather information on the sexual orientation, race, religion, ethnicity, and nationality of both the offender and the victim. Having such details helps the investigators to identify the cause of the biasness or hatred. The individuals carrying out investigations also check for any oral or written statements that may be expressing bias against the victim. Such information is collected, preserved, and used as evidence in a court of law. Bias-related symbols and markings are also checked.
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The location of the victim when the incident occurred helps the investigators in studying the environment surrounding the attack. Some of the individuals in that environment may have provoked the actions of the aggressor (Dunbar, 2006). The role of the victim in society is of importance to the investigators. For example, in cases where the victim or the aggressor is an activist, the approach to the inquiry has to change. In many instances, witnesses are very important. They are crucial parts of the evidence and need to be protected.
Investigators also analyze past events surrounding the case (Osterburg & Ward, 2013). The occurrences provide information on any instances related to biasness, such as threats and other forms of provocation. The events speed up the investigation process. In today’s world, some hate crimes are perpetuated through the internet. Provoking messages are sent through social media and other platforms. The advancements have made it possible for the investigators to gather information and evidence through the use of technology. After the investigation is over, all evidence is tabled before a court for judicial officers to rule on the case.
Deryl Paul Dedmon vs. James Craig Anderson: A Classic Example of a Hate Crime
The best example of a case involving hate crime is that of Deryl Paul Dedmon vs. James Craig Anderson. The legal suit is famous in the U.S and in other parts of the world. The defendant was given a life sentence for killing James Anderson. He was 19 years old when he committed the crime. The crime was reported in Brandon, Mississippi (Severson, 2011). The accused was charged with murder and hate crime. He pleaded guilty to both. As a result, the magistrate committed him to life sentence for each count.
The event occurred in 2009. Dedmon had threatened a number of people before killing his victim. The aggressor was a student at Brandon High School. One of his friends from school, Jordan Richardson, narrated how he and his peers called him names (Severson, 2011). They had also threatened him when they found him fishing at Cornerstone Lake in Brandon. According to Richardson’s account, Dedmon used abusive words on them.
He called them ‘little wuss’ who cannot defend themselves. The words were uttered by Dedmon to provoke Richardson and his friend (Severson, 2011). However, Richardson did not want to fight back, as this would have resulted in violence. He knew that Dedmon used to carry shotguns and knives in his truck. Richardson called the police, who came and solved the problem before it went out of hand.
On 26th June 2009, Dedmon and some of his friends left a party in Rankin County to Jackson in two vehicles. According to the testimony deduced from the accused, it was clear that the group of six was out to make trouble. For example, it is reported that Dedmon used dirty words in reference to blacks as they were leaving the venue. It was around 5 a.m. The two vehicles they traveled in were a Ford-250 and a white SUV. All this information is provided in the court records. Dedmon, together with his friends, was a known bully and troublemaker. A witness saw him pulling into Wendy’s on Ellis Avenue (Phillips & Grattet, 2000).
In the company of his friends, he bumped into Anderson, a 49-year old man. According to the witness, the victim was near his truck, trying to force the door open. He was a little drunk and had misplaced his keys. On seeing Anderson struggling with the door of the truck, Dedmon and his friends assumed that he was trying to steal. They drove towards where he was standing (Severson, 2011). They did not know that the car belonged to Anderson.
Dedmon reached on the scene and started fighting with the victim. The court records are not clear with regards to the extent to which the other boys participated in the beating. However, a witness informed that one of them was using abusive language and encouraging the aggressor to continue attacking the victim.
After the attack, the group left the scene of the crime. After beating and robbing the black man, Dedmon went back to his car. The first group drove off peacefully. However, Dedmon ran over Mr. Anderson, who was lying on the ground. It is the running over that led to the victim’s death. Dedmon did not express any feelings of guilt. On the contrary, he appeared happy of his actions (Severson, 2011). He used racial slur during the attack. He used the statement repeatedly during the course of the day.
Investigations Carried Out on the Case
Investigations regarding this case were conducted by the FBI. The aim was to determine whether Dedmon was guilty of a hate crime or not. A surveillance camera in the parking lot where Mr. Anderson was murdered proved that Dedmon used racial slurs during the attack. It proved that he killed the man because he was black. He was charged together with his friend, John Aaron Rice. The latter was accused of assault. However, this co-accused was later released, leaving Dedmon in the dock alone (Severson, 2011).
The investigations did not take long. Unlike in other cases, the witnesses in this suit were willing and ready to testify. In most instances where delayed investigations are evident, police officers cite the unwillingness of the witnesses to testify. Some of the witnesses cite fear, risks to their lives, or unavailability of evidential material. In this case, the perpetrator was well known. There were no hindrances to the police investigations. The accused was arrested on 6th July. The prosecution preferred two counts against him. They included capital murder and hate crime (Severson, 2011). Investigators cited that the accused had infringed on the victim’s civil rights.
The words uttered by Dedmon were intended to harm the victim. The victim suffered an injury, which was confirmed by the evidence brought before the court. Technological advancements made it easy for the criminal investigators to access the evidence needed to prove that Dedmon was guilty of the crimes. The persons carrying out investigations reviewed the footage captured in the surveillance cameras to find out the truth.
They also carried out tests on the body of Mr. Anderson to ascertain the real cause of death. At the opening of the hearings, the accused pleaded not guilty. The laws of Mississippi stipulate heavy sentences for capital murder and similar crimes. Such offenses carry sentences of death or life imprisonment without parole (Severson, 2011). The legislations are also strict when it comes to hate crimes. To this end, stiff sentences without the option of bail are meted out on those found guilty.
The Verdict of the Court
The case was heard and determined by Hinds County Circuit Judge, Weil. He sentenced the accused to life imprisonment for each of the offense. The judge cited that the craven act did not represent the behavior of the people of Mississippi (Severson, 2011). He continued to say that the state of Mississippi would not let such a crime go without being punished. It was also wrong for the defendant, a teenager, to commit such a crime to an elderly person just because of skin color (Phillips & Grattet, 2000).
Before the verdict was made, the sister to the deceased had written to the Judge asking him not to give a death sentence to the defendant. She claimed that sentencing the criminal to death would not be of help to the family. In addition, it would not bring back the dead. Her sister also cited her Christian beliefs, which would not allow such an act. She wrote the letter because of the previous judgments that had been passed in Mississippi (Severson, 2011).
Most of the people who were found guilty of murder because of skin color were sentenced to die. Many people in Jackson condemned the racially motivated crime. Most of the residents in this town are African Americans. After the incident, people marched in the streets of Jackson to condemn the crime.
The evidence tabled in court was enough to send the criminal behind bars for many years — most of the cases that have been dropped in Mississippi lack enough evidence (Severson, 2011). The most important thing that the judge was looking for in this case was the aspect of business with an intention to harm the other. An injury on the victim was also an important element in this case. It was unfortunate that the victim could not speak because he was dead. However, the witnesses and the video camera provided enough evidence to show that the defendant was guilty of hate crimes.
Hate crimes have been reported in many parts of the world. Such crimes have led to conflicts between individuals. Any intended harm towards an individual on the basis of their color, religion, gender, or sex is regarded as a hate crime. Apart from the racially motivated case highlighted in this paper, other forms of hate crimes reported in many parts of the world are related to religion. In some regions, there are instances where Muslims and Christians fight because of their faith (Osterburg & Ward, 2013). Such incidences are a threat to peace in the country.
Many governments have come up with laws to fight hate crimes. Most of these legislations are associated with tough punishments, which are meant to ensure that incidences of these offenses are reduced. Investigations around hate crimes have been boosted by the introduction of modern technology. Today, it is fairly easy to gather evidence related to the offense. Hate crimes are violations of individual human rights. As such, the victims have the right to be heard and protected under the law.
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Dunbar, E. (2006). Race, gender, and sexual orientation in hate crime victimization: Identity politics or identity risk?. Violence and Victims, 21(3), 323-337.
Jacobs, J., & Potter, K. (2000). Hate crimes: Criminal law & identity politics (Studies in crime and public policy). New York: Oxford University Press.
Osterburg, J., & Ward, R. (2013). Criminal investigation: A method for reconstructing the past (7th ed.). London: Routledge.
Phillips, S., & Grattet, R. (2000). Judicial rhetoric, meaning-making, and the institutionalization of hate crime law. Law & Society Review, 34(3), 567-606.
Severson, K. (2011). Weighing race and hate in a Mississippi killing. New York Times. Web.