Lawmaker seeks hate crime repeal

To state Rep. Elbert Bicknell, R-Deerfield, the whole idea of having special categories of hate crimes seems absurd. If you kill someone, he said, “You’re not killing the guy because you love him.”

Bicknell, who is the prime sponsor of a bill to repeal the state law that requires enhanced penalties for crimes motivated by hostility toward a particular class of people, insists that “a crime is a crime is a crime” and the victim is no more or less dead or injured because the perpetrator was or was not motivated by hatred of the victim’s race or other characteristics.

“The only time motivation is important is in the investigation stage,” said Bicknell, a former New Hampshire State Police officer. “After that it’s up to the jury to decide, ‘Did he commit the crime or didn’t he?’”

Under RSA 651:6 (f), crimes “substantially motivated” by hostility toward the victim’s race, gender, religion, national origin or sexual orientation can result in enhanced penalties of 20 to 40 years imprisonment for manslaughter and a life sentence for murder. For all other felonies, a “hate crime” brings an added 10 to 20 years of prison time.

Bicknell’s bill has drawn opposition from Gov. John Lynch, Attorney General Kelly Ayotte and spokesmen for the Jewish Federation of Greater Manchester and the Seacoast chapter of the NAACP.

“When these types of crimes are committed it has an impact not only on the individual victim, it can have an impact on the community and on others in the community who have similar traits,” said Ayotte.

The state has to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime was based on the kind of hostility described in the statute before the enhanced penalties to be imposed, she said. “I’m not aware of any evidence that the statute has been abused,” said Ayotte. – JACK KENNY

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