|Press Release||Hate Crimes
ADL Confident Supreme Court will Validate Penalty Enhancement Approach to Hate
Crimes Laws in New Jersey Case
New York, NY, November 29, 1999…The Anti-Defamation
League (ADL), today said it is confident that the Supreme Court will reaffirm
the constitutionality of the general penalty enhancement approach it has
previously endorsed as it examines the specific language of a New Jersey
The Anti-Defamation League author of model hate crimes legislation which has
served as the inspiration
for statutes enacted in New Jersey and in 39 other states and the District of
Columbia, today issued the following statement in reaction to the U.S. Supreme
Court’s announcement that it will review a New Jersey hate crimes case, Apprendi
v. New Jersey:
The case of Apprendi v. New Jersey does not call into question the
constitutionality or the efficacy of hate crimes statutes such as the one
upheld only six years ago by a unanimous Supreme Court in Wisconsin v.
Mitchell. To the contrary, Apprendi offers the United States
Supreme Court the opportunity to clarify a narrow question of interpretation
regarding one specific state hate crimes law. At issue is whether a judge or
a jury should make the determination that a crime was bias-motivated under
New Jersey’s penalty-enhancement statute, and whether that determination
must be established "beyond a reasonable doubt."
The Wisconsin statute the Supreme Court upheld in Mitchell, and
most other state penalty enhancement hate crimes statutes, require the
prosecution to prove that the perpetrator committed the underlying crime and
that the victim was targeted because of his race, religion, ethnicity,
sexual orientation or similar characteristic. In New Jersey, the statute
allows a judge to enhance a sentence when he or she believes that "the
defendant in committing the crime acted with a purpose to intimidate an
individual or group of individuals because of race, color, gender, handicap,
religion, sexual orientation or ethnicity."
In the decision to be reviewed, the New Jersey Supreme Court did not regard
the New Jersey penalty enhancement approach as unconstitutional, but added that
"the final word on this subject will have to come from the Supreme
Court." ADL believes the New Jersey penalty enhancement mechanism is
basically sound. The League is confident the Court will reaffirm the
constitutionality of the general penalty enhancement approach it endorsed in Mitchell
as it examines the specific language of the New Jersey law.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.