- Discover essay samples

Why Mitchell v Wisconsin Sucke

4.9 of 5.0 (128 reviews)

1647 words

Why Mitchell v Wisconsin Sucke Page 1
Why Mitchell v Wisconsin Sucke Page 2
Why Mitchell v Wisconsin Sucke Page 3
Why Mitchell v Wisconsin Sucke Page 4
Why Mitchell v Wisconsin Sucke Page 5
Why Mitchell v Wisconsin Sucke Page 6
The above thumbnails are of reduced quality. To view the work in full quality, click download.

Why Mitchell v Wisconsin Sucke

On June 11, 1993, the United State Supreme Court upheld Wisconsin's penalty enhancement law, which imposes harsher sentences on criminals who 'intentionally select the person against whom the committed..because of the race, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry of that person.' Chief Justice Rehnquist deliverd the opinion of the unanimous Court. This paper argues against the decision, and will attempt to prove the unconstitutionality of such penalty enhancement laws.

On the evening of October 7, 1989, Mitchell and a group of young black men attacked and severely beat a lone white boy. The group had just finished watching the film 'Mississippi Burning', in which a young black boy was, while praying, beaten by a white man. After the film, the group moved outside and Mitchell asked if they felt 'hyped up to move on some white people'. When the white boy approached Mitchell said, 'You all want to fuck somebody up? There goes a white boy, Go get him.' The boy was left unconscious, and remained in a coma for four days. Mitchell was convicted of aggravated battery, which carries a two year maximum sentence. The Wisconsin jury, however, found that because Mitchell selected his victim based on race, the penalty enhancement law allowed Mitchell to be sentenced to up to seven years. The jury sentenced Mitchell to four years, twice the maximum for the crime he committed without the penalty enhancement law.

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling was faulty, and defied a number of precedents. The Wisconsin law is unconstitutional, and is essentially unenforceable. This paper primarily focuses on the constitutional arguments against Chief Justice Rehnquist's decision and the statute itself, but will also consider the practical implications of the Wisconsin law, as well as a similar law passed under the new federal crime bill (Cacas, 32). The Wisconsin law and the new federal law are based on a model created by the Anti- Defemation League in response to a rising tide of hate-related violent crimes (Cacas, 33). Figures released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation show that 7,684 hate crimes motivated by race, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation were reported in 1993, up from 6,623 the previous year. Of those crimes in 1993, 62 percent were racially motivated (Cacas, 32). Certainly, this is a problem the nation must address. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court of the United States and both the Wisconsin and federal governments have chosen to address this problem in a way that is grossly unconstitutional.

'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise therof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.' The most obvious arguments against the Mitchell decision are those dealing with the First Amendment. In fact, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the state statute was unconstitutional in their decision, which the U.S. Supreme Court overruled. The Wisconsim Supreme Court argued that the Wisconsin penalty enhancement statute, 'violates the First Amendment directly by punishing what the legislature has deemed offensive thought.' The Wisconsin Court also rejected the state's argument 'that the statute punishes only the 'conduct' of intentional selection of a victim'. The Court's contention was that 'the statute punishes the 'because of' aspect of the defendant's selection, the reason the defendant selected the victim, the motive behind the selection.' The law is in fact a direct violation of the First Amendment, according to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which said 'the Wisconsin legislature cannot criminalize bigoted thought with which it disagrees.'

'If there is a bedrock principal underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable'. The Supreme Court was heard to utter such noble phrases as recently as 1989, in Texas v. Johnson. Unfortunately these idealistic principles seem to have been abandoned during Wisconsin v. Mitchell.

Clearly, Mitchell's act of assaulting another human is a punishable crime, and no one could logiacally argue that the First Amendment protects this clearly criminal action. However, the state's power to punish the action does not remove the constitutional barrier to punishing the criminal's thoughts (Cacas, 337). The First Amendment has generally been interpreted to protect the thoughts, as well as the speech, of an individual (Cacas, 338). According to the Court's majority opinion in Wooley v. Maynard, a 1977 case, 'At the heart of the First Amendment is the notion that an individual should be free to believe as he will, and that in a free society one's beliefs should be shaped by his mind and his conscience rather than coerced by the state.'

Another componet of Mitchell's First Amendment argument against the penalty enhancement law, was that the statute was overbroad, and might have a 'chilling effect' on free speech. Mitchell contended that with such a penalty enhancement law, many citizens would be hesitant to experess their unpopular opinions, for fear that those opinions would be used against them in the future.

In Abrams v. United States, Justice Holmes, in his dissent, argued that 'laws which limit or chill thought and expression detract from the goal of insuring the availability of the broadest possible range of ideas and expression in the marketplace of ideas'. Chief Justice Rehnquist, however, rejects the notion that the Wisconsin statute could have a chilling effect on speech. 'We must conjure up a vision of a Wisconsin citizen suppressing his unpopular bigoted opinions for fear that if he later commits an offense covered by the statute, these opinions will be offered at trial to establish that he selected his victim on account of the victim's protected status, thus qualifying him for penalty enhancement... This is too speculative a hypothesis to support Mitchell's overbreadth claim.' However, a legitimate argument certainly exists that the logical next step would be to examine the conversations, correspondence, and other expressions of the accused person to determine whether a hate motive prompted the crime, if a criminal's sentence is being considered for penalty enhancement (Feingold, 16). How can Rehnquist argue that this will not cause a chilling effect?

Rehnquist denies this chilling effect exists under penalty enhancement laws such as Wisconsin's, but one must consider how Rehnquist would rule if the penalty enhancement did not cover something, such as racism, that he finds personally repugnant. The recent attempt at 'political correctness' differs only slightly from the Red Scare of the 1950's. The anti-communists claimed and the politically correct ideologists claim to have good intentions (The Road to Hell...).Unfortunately, these two groups infringed upon the rights of the minority in their quest to mold the htoughts of others into ideas similar to their own.

How would Rehnquist rule if the statute called for enhanced penalties for persons convicted of crimes while expressing Communist ideas? Or what if the criminal was Mormon, and the majority found those religious views morally repugnant? Could Rehnquist also justify suppressing the religious freedoms found in the First Amendment, as well as its free speech clause, if they were found to be as reprehensible as racism by the general public? The United States Supreme Court is granting selective protection of First Amendment rights, in Mitchell v. Wisoconsin, and is yielding to political pressure to suppress bigoted views.

Mitchell's second constitutional argument is that the statute violates the Foruteenth Amendment as well as the First. The Foruteenth Amendment contains the 'equal protection clause', which states that no state shall 'deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws'. The Wisconsin statute punishes offenders more seriously because of the views they express, and punishes more leniently those whose motives are of an 'acceptable' nature (Gellman, 379). This seems to be a clear violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, but again, Rehnquist (and the entire Supreme Court), sees things quite diiferently.

Rehnquist argues that, 'The First Amendment... does not prohibit the evidentiary use of speech to establish the elements of a crime and to prove motive or intent'. Motive, however, is used to establish guilt or innocence, and is not in itself a crime. Undeniably, however, those that express bigoted views are punished more severely than those who do not.

Rehnquist, however, never specifically mentions the Fourteenth Amendmeent because they were not developed by Mitchell and fell outside of the question on which the Court granted certiorari. Rehnquist also argues that 'Traditionally, sentencing judges have considered a wide variety of factors in addition to evidence bearing on guilt in determining what sentences to impose on a convicted defendant... The defendant's motive for committing the offense is one important factor.'

This is a compelling argument, but I would argue this practice is itself of questionable constitutionality, in that it allows the sentencing judge to exercise excessive discretionary judgement based on his view as to what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable motives. However, even if this practice is held to be constitutional, surpassing the existing maximum penalty with an additional statute that specifically lists bigotry as an unacceptable motive, certainly qualifies as being the same as imposing an additional penalty for unpopular beliefs.

To illuatrate the dangers inherent in laws such as Wisconsin's penalty enhancement statute, we need only examine Texas v. Johnson, a 1989 Supreme Court case. The state's flag desecration statute was ruled unconstitutional by the Court. However, using Rehnquists logic in Mitchell, the state of Texas could have easily achieved their goal by prohibiting public burning, a legitimate exercise of their ...

You are currently seeing 50% of this paper.

You're seeing 1647 words of 3293.

Similar essays

Alcohol and Drug control

Alcohol and Drug Prevention and Control Program ADAPCP The Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Program (ADAPCP) is a substance abuse treatment program used in the Armed Forces. The DA's policy on alcohol is that "abuse or excessive use of alcohol will not be condoned or accepted as part of any military tradition, ceremony, o...

47 reviews
Censorship of american music

By: Nick E-mail: rufrdr3333 Censorship of American Music Although is clearly states in the first amendment that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petitio...

184 reviews
Wherefore the Maintenance of L

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure. -Thomas Jefferson On a cold, miserable day in the North Caucasus, the only one who does not look dismal is Russian General Mikhail Malofeyev. He is dead. His body is flag draped and on open display before a dark stand...

142 reviews
Racism Analysis

Racism "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character" (Martin Luther King Jr.) Ku Klux Klan. Neo Nazis. The Aryan Nations. The American Nazi Party. What are these groups? Why are they present in a land of...

8 reviews
Brown vs

. Board of Education Brown v. Board of Education was a landmark case in the history of American education. There were several events and issues which led up to this critical event. From the 1892 Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court Case, the precedent of "separate but equal" was set. This doctrine effected the school system , in that there were sepa...

69 reviews
The Supreme Court and Precedent

Many recent decisions by the High Court have come under the spotlight of public scrutiny. Questions have been raised over the Court's adherence to the Doctrine of Precedent and the Separation of Powers doctrine. This paper will examine the theoretical and practical issues placed upon the High Court from the Precedent doctrine....

35 reviews
Martin Luther King Jr

. Vs Malc By: ProfLooney . and Malcolm X . and Malcolm X grew up in different environments. King was raised in a comfortable middle-class family where education was stressed. On the other hand, Malcolm X came from and underprivileged home. He was a self-taught man who received little schooling and rose to greatness on his own intelligence an...

202 reviews
West Side Story Anaylsis

By: Mike Smtih E-mail: West Side Story Critique / Analysis As a contemporary musical, West Side Story differs from Romeo and Juliet in form and detail, but stays true to the tragedy of innocent love caught in a complex social web that predestines its demise. In West Side Story, love at first sight between Tony and Ma...

8 reviews

By: Ashley Christensen E-mail: by Ashley Christensen Ms. Robinson Period 3 / Sociology 2/29/2000 Introduction Today, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD's) , are among the most common causes of illness in the United States. People in their teens and twenties are most affected by STD's, with over 6 million new cases...

25 reviews
The Advisory opinion of the IC

One of my first memories is a beautiful warm summer night, sitting in the garden with my grandfather, looking up to the stars. Then my grandfather started to talk about two powerful men in the world, who have all the capability just by pushing two buttons to destroy the entire planet. The bombs would come with great light and unbearable heat an...

128 reviews
Women in Islam

The topic of this paper was chosen out of the conviction that humanity is suffering today from a number of serious social problems related to women and to the interrelations of the two sexes in society. Although these problems may be more pronounced, disturbing, more debilitating for some of us than for others, there are probably few if any reg...

79 reviews
A wise decision

By: tammi E-mail: A Wise Delay Governor Ryan's decision to suspend the death penalty is already starting to have a valuable impact on the rest of nation. Other states are starting to aid in Governor Ryan's quest to improve death penalty systems. Last week, a representative from the state of Wisconsin, requested that Pre...

205 reviews
Study on Juvenile Psychopaths

What is the "super predator"? He or she are young hypercriminals who are committing acts of violence of unprecedented coldness and brutality. This newest phenomena in the world of crime is perhaps the most dangerous challenge facing society and law enforcement ever. While psychopaths are not new, this breed of super criminal exce...

10 reviews
Binge Drinking

We all know what it is like to wake up in the morning, your head is aching, and your body feels like it was hit by a big garbage truck. College students worldwide know this feeling. These are the results of binge drinking. Why do they do it? Binge drinking is defined for men as drinking five or more drinks in a row in the past two...

86 reviews
Atsisiųsti šį darbą