The Washington Times rightly criticized the federal hate-crimes
bill, but it left out the the strongest reason for opposing it
(“Thought crimes,” Editorial, April 30). The bill is designed to allow
people who have already been found innocent in state court to be
re-prosecuted in federal court, thus reviving false charges. That’s why
four members of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission wrote to congressional
leaders opposing the bill on April 29. Civil libertarians like Wendy
Kaminer and legal commentators like Stuart Taylor have also criticized
the bill for allowing re-prosecutions.
Sadly, a loophole in
constitutional double-jeopardy protections allows re-prosecutions. But
human-rights treaties that forbid double-jeopardy – i.e., the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – do not contain
such a loophole. This is why it is deeply ironic that liberal groups
that usually harp on international rights treaties have chosen to
ignore them in order to push this disturbing bill.
of the bill have not explained why not-guilty verdicts by a state court
should not be respected. Some have pointed to the defendants in the
Duke University lacrosse case as an example of people who should have
been prosecuted in federal court. But as North Carolina’s attorney
general later admitted, those lacrosse players were in fact innocent of
the charges against them.