The Human Rights Campaign continues to monitor a brutal hate
crime in Santa Barbara, Calif., where Martin Thomas Hartman was arraigned
today for setting ablaze and murdering 37-year-old Clint Scott Risetter on
February 24. During the arraignment, Hartman pleaded not guilty for
allegedly pouring gasoline over Risetter and setting him on fire while he
slept because Risetter was gay.
Hartman told police that he met the victim about six months previous
to the murder and had recently found out that Risetter was gay.
"[Hartman] first said he did it because the victim was unhappy and
depressed so he didn't need to be around in the world," said Police Sgt.
Mike McGrew, the lead investigator on the case. "He also said he killed him
because he was gay, and he has a lot of hatred toward gay people."
"This horrendous crime is a scary reminder that some people are so
hate-filled that they believe they have the right to take another person's
life based solely on someone's sexual orientation," said HRC National Field
Director Seth Kilbourn. "HRC is deeply saddened for Risetter and his family
and we will closely monitor the case to make sure justice is served."
"Our community has been shaken by this heinous and brutal crime. But
we must not let hatred and revenge blind us," said Janet Stanley, Executive
Director, Pacific Pride Foundation. "We must be ever vigilant in our work at
making our community a safer and more inclusive environment for all."
Police say Hartman, 38, is a mentally disturbed individual who had
been a suspect in a number of Santa Barbara arsons. However, police say they
never had enough evidence to charge him. The preliminary trial for the
murder of Risetter has been set for June 26. If convicted of this hate
crime, Hartman could face the death penalty.
California includes sexual orientation in its hate crimes law, along
with 26 other states and the District of Columbia. Five states have no hate
crimes laws, and 18 states with hate crimes laws don't include sexual
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.
A study funded by the Bureau of Justice Statistics released
September 2000, shows that 85 percent of law enforcement officials surveyed
recognize hate violence to be more serious than similar crimes not motivated
by bias. Hate crimes are meant to send a message and are a form of domestic
terrorism against a particular group or religion.
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