Dallas County DA's Office says it won't prosecute Oak Lawn attack as hate crime

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Two weeks after the worst alleged gay-bashing in Dallas in recent memory, the daily newspaper has apparently awakened from its slumber. The DMN, which hasn’t said a word about the July 17 Oak Lawn beating of Jimmy Lee Dean (pictured above) until now, reported this morning on the back page of its Metro section that the Dallas County DA’s Office doesn’t plan to prosecute the case as a hate crime. Of course, Dallas Voice pretty well said as much in this article a week ago. And if you’d like to read our exclusive interview with the victim, which appeared in today’s paper, go here. For the record, I’ve had calls in to the DA’s Office all week trying to confirm what was really a foregone conclusion — that they wouldn’t take a hate-crime filing to a grand jury. I’m not sure why the DA’s Office didn’t bother giving Dallas Voice this information. Maybe Craig Watkins is still miffed at me for reporting that he doesn’t know the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity.

Anyhow, the real issue here is Texas’ hate crimes statute, which seems to be deterring prosecutors from using it. As reported previously in Dallas Voice, thousands of incidents have been classified as hate crimes by law enforcement since the statute took effect in 2001. However, only nine of those incidents have been prosecuted as hate crimes, and only one of those prosecutions was successful, according to Equality Texas.

Although the Police Department has classified Dean’s beating as a hate crime, you can’t blame the DA’s Office for not prosecuting it as such, because that would increase their burden of proof without offering any additional penalties for the defendants. In other words, the two suspects would face five to 99 years in prison if convicted as charged, regardless of whether a jury were to affirm the hate crimes finding. I think most people in the LGBT community would rather see the case prosecuted as a non-hate crime, and the suspects found guilty, than to see the case prosecuted as a hate crime, and have them get off because of it.

So if you’re outraged about this situation, don’t go barking up the wrong tree. Take your concerns directly to state legislators. Equality Texas has tried unsuccessfully to get the Legislature to fund a study of the hate crimes statute to determine why it’s not working. Who knows, maybe State Rep. Dan Branch has something to say about this, but we most seriously doubt it.

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