- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 6, 2009


The Washington Times rightly criticized the federal hate-crimes bill, but it left out 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.

Advocates 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.


Counsel, Competitive Enterprise Institute


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