The latest update on the #ChapelHillShooting of three Muslim students in North Carolina is that the FBI has launched an investigation into the murders to see if any federal “hate crime” laws were violated:
And we’re learning a little more about the suspect in the slayings, Craig Stephens Hicks, that might make proving this was a hate crime a little tougher. According to neighbors, he was angry at everybody.
From the New York Times:
Neighbors knew Craig Stephen Hicks. He was the angry man on Summerwalk Circle, they said — irritated about noise, irascible about parking, hostile to religion. And armed.
And that Hicks “functioned as a self-appointed watchman in the complex”:
The police say they never received any formal complaints, but Mr. Hicks, a 46-year-old former auto parts dealer who has been studying to become a paralegal, appears to have functioned as a self-appointed watchman in the complex. The Chapel Hill police released a report about a 2013 incident in which he apparently called them to complain that someone had allegedly grabbed a tow-truck driver’s arm while he was trying to tow a car. And just last month, he wrote on Facebook that he had called the police because he saw a couple having sex in a car in the parking lot.
While discussing the case on “Morning Joe” this morning, Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, Willie Geist and the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson all agreed that Hick’s “watchman” persona reminded them of a story out of Florida from a “year or two ago” in a reference to George Zimmerman.
Here’s a quick Vine:
Scarborough made this same claim on yesterday’s program:
Irresponsible of the hosts to do so? Valid? You make the call…
Scarborough also criticized the Chapel Hill police for being so quick to link the murders to a dispute over a parking spot:
It’s important to remember that a designation of the murders as a “hate crime” is important primarily as it relates to sentencing in the case. In North Carolina, charging Hicks with a “hate crime” only makes a difference if he’s convicted on lesser charges, and even then, it wouldn’t do much to change his sentence:
North Carolina has hate-crime laws for lesser crimes like property damage and assault, but not for first-degree murder, which already carries the most serious possible punishments, a North Carolina legal expert said Thursday.
If a suspect charged with second-degree murder — an intentional but not premeditated killing — was motivated to kill because of the victim’s religion, a judge could slightly increase the prison sentence, said Joseph Kennedy, a University of North Carolina law professor.
But if a killing was intentional and premeditated — first-degree murder — no such hate-crime enhancement exists, and state law does not make specific considerations for religious or racial hatred when a jury considers whether to give a defendant who is found guilty a life sentence or the death penalty, Kennedy said.