The Case Of Mitchell V. Wisconsin

2986 words - 12 pages

On June 11, 1993, the United State Supreme Court upheld Wisconsin'spenalty enhancement law, which imposes harsher sentences on criminalswho "intentionally select the person against whom the crime...iscommitted..because of the race, religion, color, disability, sexualorientation, national origin or ancestry of that person." ChiefJustice Rehnquist deliverd the opinion of the unanimous Court. Thispaper argues against the decision, and will attempt to prove theunconstitutionality of such penalty enhancement laws.On the evening of October 7, 1989, Mitchell and a group of youngblack men attacked and severely beat a lone white boy. The group hadjust finished watching the film "Mississippi Burning", in which ayoung black boy was, while praying, beaten by a white man. After thefilm, the group moved outside and Mitchell asked if they felt "hypedup to move on some white people". When the white boy approachedMitchell said, "You all want to fuck somebody up? There goes a whiteboy, Go get him." The boy was left unconscious, and remained in acoma 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 onrace, the penalty enhancement law allowed Mitchell to be sentenced toup to seven years. The jury sentenced Mitchell to four years, twicethe maximum for the crime he committed without the penalty enhancementlaw.The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling was faulty, and defied a number ofprecedents. The Wisconsin law is unconstitutional, and is essentiallyunenforceable. This paper primarily focuses on the constitutionalarguments against Chief Justice Rehnquist's decision and the statuteitself, but will also consider the practical implications of theWisconsin law, as well as a similar law passed under the new federalcrime bill (Cacas, 32). The Wisconsin law and the new federal law arebased on a model created by the Anti- Defemation League in response toa rising tide of hate-related violent crimes (Cacas, 33). Figuresreleased by the Federal Bureau of Investigation show that 7,684 hatecrimes motivated by race, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientationwere reported in 1993, up from 6,623 the previous year. Of thosecrimes 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 andfederal governments have chosen to address this problem in a way thatis grossly unconstitutional."Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,or prohibiting the free exercise therof; or abridging the freedom ofspeech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceablyassemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."The most obvious arguments against the Mitchell decision are thosedealing with the First Amendment. In fact, the Wisconsin SupremeCourt ruled that the state statute was unconstitutional...

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