HRC Applauds Justice Department For Bringing Historical Federal Indictment In Double Murder Of Lesbian Hikers

On April 10th, The Human Rights Campaign applauded Attorney General
John Ashcroft and the Justice Department for invoking the Hate Crimes
Sentencing Enhancement Act in the indictment of Darrell David Rice for the
1996 slaying of two female hikers in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia. The
indictment marks the first time ever that the Hate Crimes Sentencing
Enhancement Act was invoked to charge someone with a hate crime based on
sexual orientation or gender.

"Today's murder indictment specifically invokes a federal sentencing
enhancement enacted to ensure justice for victims of hate crimes," said
Ashcroft in a statement he read today.

"With this indictment, the federal government has recognized the
horrendous nature of this hate crime and that it should be prosecuted to the
fullest extent of the law," said HRC Political Director Winnie Stachelberg.
The Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act could be used in this case
because the murders took place on federal land. "Congress must build on
this recognition and pass the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act,
(LLEEA)so other cases can be handled fairly and be brought to justice."

O

n June 1, 1996, Julianne Marie Williams and Laura Winans were
discovered dead in Virginia's mountainous Shenandoah National Park, bound
and gagged, with their throats slit. Yesterday, Rice was indicted by a grand
jury in Charlottesville, Va., charged with four counts of capital murder,
two of which allege that he chose his victims because of their gender and
sexual orientation.

According to the indictment, "The United States maintains that the
defendant hated women and lesbians and that hatred was a motive for his
killing…" Additionally, the indictment charged, "The defendant stated
intent that he intentionally selected women to intimidate and assault
'because they are more vulnerable than men.'" And it also charged that, "The
defendant's stated intent that he 'hates gays' and that Julianne Williams
and Laura Winans 'deserved to die because they were lesbian whores.'"
If these murders had occurred almost any other place in America this statute
could not have been used, says HRC.

"We are grateful that federal jurisdiction could be exercised in this case.
Law enforcement ought to have the tools they need to investigate and
prosecute hate crimes no matter where they occur," said Stachelberg. "Until
LLEEA is passed, however, many hate crime victims and their families may not
receive the justice they deserve."

The Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act was passed as a part of the
Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. This law directs the
U.S. Sentencing Commission to provide sentencing enhancements of "not less
than three offense levels for offenses that the finder of fact at trial
determines beyond a reasonable doubt are hate crimes."

The FBI Uniform Crime Reports for 2000 – the latest year for which
statistics are available -showed that as overall serious crime decreased
slightly nationally, with the Crime Index at its lowest level since 1978,
reported hate crimes have continued to rise and increased 2.3 percent from
1999 to 2000.

Reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation have more than
tripled since the FBI began collecting statistics in 1991, and comprise 16.1
percent of all hate crimes for 2000 at 1,299. Hate crimes based on sexual
orientation continue to make up the third highest category after race and
religion, which make up 53.8 and 18.3 percent, respectively of the total,
8,063. For 2000, the greatest percentage of hate crimes took place in a
residence/home or on a highway/road/street/alley, according to the FBI.
Sadly, FBI statistics only give a glimpse of the problem. It is widely
recognized that hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation often go
unreported due to fear and stigmatization. Additionally, federal reporting
of hate crimes to the FBI by state and local jurisdictions is voluntary,
resulting in no participation by many jurisdictions each year.

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