I’m a big fan of being wrong. It’s incredibly reassuring to me when I make predictions and they turn out to be incorrect, or when someone can demonstrate to me a flaw or incompleteness in my reasoning. It helps me to know two things: 1) that I still have lots more to learn, and 2) that I am at least partly shielded from accusations of arrogance and closed-mindedness.
Back on the 13th of July, I predicted that the 3 men who viciously attacked a black man in Courtenay, BC while screaming racial slurs at him would walk free. Their lawyer was arguing that he (the victim of the assault) consented to it and that it was his own fault. Racism that strong doesn’t usually happen in isolation, and I feared that the community would use that explanation as a scapegoat to free the attackers.
Once again, and I say this with as much enthusiasm as I can muster… I WAS WRONG!
Judge Peter Doherty delivered a guilty verdict Thursday against all three men accused of assaulting a lone man last July in Courtenay. The judge ruled in Supreme Court in Courtenay that David Samuel White, 19, Adam David Huber and Robert William Rogers, both 25, were each guilty of assault, although Doherty declined to add additional racially motivated penalties.
I couldn’t have asked for a better ruling. The three men were found guilty of the crime they committed, and the waters weren’t muddied by adding race-based penalties. I realize that this second part might seem counter-intuitive to what one would expect a black man in BC to be happy about, but I’ll try to explain my reasoning.
A crime is a crime. If you do harm to someone, you should be punished. However, to say that some crimes are special because they are perpetrated against groups we like, and that additional punishment is merited in certain circumstances is philosophically dicey ground. The same reasoning was used by lynch mobs in the southern United States, when black men were hanged for raping (which in many cases was simply the act of holding hands with, or looking at) a white woman. Should this event be recorded as a hate crime? Absolutely. It was, by definition, a hate crime, and calling it what it is highlights an underlying problem in the community. I can’t sit comfortably, however, with the idea that special punishment should be merited for acts by a specific group against a ‘favoured’ group. Counselling and community service may be appropriate remedial actions to take for perpetrators of hate crimes (which is different from punishment because it ostensibly lowers the likelihood of repeat attacks), but not longer prison sentences.
From a pragmatic standpoint, I’m also glad because it gives the defense fewer options for an appeal to reduce the sentence.
Anyway, I am happy with the ruling, and I hope that Jay Phillips is too. This story is not over, but at least this part of it has reached a satisfying conclusion.