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Trayvon Martin case leads to hasty hate crime theory in Baltimore

The homicide of teenager Trayvon Martin might not be a local case, but the matter has reached the national levels of attention and uproar. The black teenager was shot by a Hispanic shooter, who claims that he acted in self-defense according to Florida law.

It took some time for Florida authorities to formally charge Andrew Zimmerman with a crime related to the homicide, and during that time the country has built up some passionate opinions regarding the case. Many believe that the shooting was racially motivated. A Baltimore police officer is worried that attitudes regarding the Martin case are seeping into locals' ideas about an assault that recently took place here.

The Baltimore Sun reports that the classification of "hate crime" has hastily been thrown around in relation to a beating that occurred in downtown Baltimore. The incident was videotaped and went viral online, moving lots of people to voice their opinions about the crime. The victim was white, and the video shows him getting hit, robbed and stripped down by a group of black suspects.

In response to some people connecting the assault to racial motivations, a Baltimore officer warns the community that it must be careful not to so readily say things that might incite racial tension. The case in Florida has people on edge already, and more investigation into this recent Baltimore assault is needed to confirm the details behind it.

From a criminal defense standpoint, classifying something as a hate crime has serious implications for a defendant. If a court agrees that a crime was motivated by bias regarding race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, etc., a defendant would be sentenced more harshly.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Bealefeld: Downtown beating not a hate crime," Justin Fenton, April 10, 2012

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