Chai Vang And The Hate Crime Self-Defense Claim
September 20, 2005, 05:00 AM
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What is up with liberals?

Seriously, reconcile this if you can: Most liberals think abortion should be legal but racism should not.

Hmm…

This means a woman can choose to end the life of her unborn child but she can't choose to dislike people.

Is there a moral differential?

Yes! Disliking people would be offensive.

It's like the stories I'm hearing from Iraq of soldiers being reprimanded for using derogatory language when speaking of the enemy.

Apparently, a soldier may not refer to an Arab man as a camel jockey (for example) because it's considered offensive.

Now, running that Arab man over with a tank is apparently not offensive…so no restrictions there.

(By the way, these are abstract examples—not meant to imply my advocacy for either side of these issues.)

When did one's opinion—simple, spoken words—become a matter of legal concern?

How can a man's opinion be considered a mitigating factor in say, a murder case?

Last year, Hmong immigrant Chai Soua Vang shot eight people in Wisconsin killing six of them and seriously wounding two.

On Friday, Vang was found guilty of six counts of first degree murder. The state of Wisconsin does not have the death penalty, but first degree murder does carry a sentence of life in prison without parole.

The details of this trial received a ton of coverage in the Wisconsin media—but were not much reported, as far as I can see, in the national press.

From the time of his arrest, Vang has maintained his actions were in self-defense. According to Vang, the eight victims surrounded him and called him racially offensive names.

He also claimed that one or more of the victims raised their rifles as though to shoot him.

So Vang killed all of them.

As it turned out, only one of his victims was armed. And four of the six were shot in the back…after he chased them down.

At first, I was surprised by the self-defense argument. I thought Vang would go with an insanity plea. In a case like this, who wouldn't?

Heck, I think he would have stood a better chance for an acquittal had he gone with an old-fashioned "wudn't me" defense.

But when I considered the climate today, and the anti-racism hysteria that has gripped America by the borders, I realized that Vang might be on to something.

As far as criminal proceedings are concerned, there are two issues here:

  1. The presence of provocation and;
  1. The relevance of racism
According to Barry Feld, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin

"If they [the defense] can establish the presence of provocation, it's considered a mitigating factor that could reduce murder to manslaughter" Self-defense a tough sell in Vang case, law experts say

Remember, it would be his word against theirs and dead men tell no tales…Vang clearly had a bit of an advantage.

And, thanks to federal hate crime laws, racism is a mitigating factor.

The law provides a sentencing enhancement for criminals found guilty of a racially motivated crime—their punishment can actually double.

But the assumption that any U.S. judge has the power to punish a man for his thoughts is appalling. And the theory that fear of incarceration will suddenly make a man embrace minorities is patently absurd.

But this is the current state of American jurisprudence.

For that reason, it is not wholly unrealistic to think a judge would accept the self-defense argument by simply extending the scope of hate crime jurisdiction.

If a judge can punish a man for hating another, can not the hated punish the man as well?

Vang thought so…and so did his family and friends.

During his testimony, Vang claimed that one of the victims called him a "gook" and a "chink". He said he left the area and returned moments later because somebody fired a shot at him.

  • In "self-defense," Vang walked back towards the victims
 
  • He chased two of them for quite a distance…and testified that one of the men was running very fast
 
  • He hid in the bushes waiting for others to respond to the call for help issued by one the victims—then he shot a man and a woman in the back, knocking them off their ATV
  According to Vang's sister, Chou Vang, the all-white jury was to blame as well.

"Everyone was white. They do not understand. They will never understand what my brother went through out there," she said. "He was not a dog to sit there and let them shoot at him. He was proud of who he is." [Jury finds Vang guilty of killing deer hunters ROBERT IMRIE Associated Press, Sep. 16, 2005]

I find it difficult to imagine anyone being proud of themselves after killing six people let alone following a cold-blooded killing spree, even in self-defense.

Vang's mother also chimed in with words of blame—for the American victims:

"All of this could have been prevented if we could just learn to respect each other. Please, I beg you, remember my words," Sao Hang said. [Vang's mom: 'Learn to respect each other' By Todd Richmond Associated Press September 16, 2005]

No, Mrs. Hang. The only person who could have prevented this slaughter was your son.

I can't imagine how difficult it must have been for the victims' families to fend off accusations of racism while grappling with their grief.

Vang was not acquitted and will face severe consequences. But life in prison hardly seems enough.

And this type of "racist!" defense is just one of many signs of more to come.

As I have mentioned before, justice is no longer blind and equality before the law has been replaced by preferential treatment.

I hope the liberal design to stomp out racism was worth this price—especially as they will fail to achieve their objective. If anything, they will make things worse.

Final thought:

"Restriction on free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us." William O. Douglas, Supreme Court Justice.

Bryanna Bevens [email her] is a political consultant and former chief of staff for a member of the California State Assembly.