Arkansas Lacks Hate Crime Law

July 14, 2006 -- 5:00 PM CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- Arkansas is one of seven states that doesn't have a hate crime law in the books, and Brent Davis, District Prosecuting Attorney, said there is a good explanation as to why.

"I think the logic is, is that the state of Arkansas has laws that can deal with the conduct whether it's battery, whether it's a shooting or stabbing, or a threat," said Davis.

A hate crime receiving national attention in 1998, involved the death of James Byrd of Texas.  Three white supremacists were charged in his death, which involved Byrd being chained to a pickup and dragged nearly three miles.

"It might be good to deal have a law that dealt with the motivation behind why the act occurred, so that you're sending a message out that, that's not going to be acceptable conduct," said Davis.

Representative Chris Thyer said that the last time a hate crime legislation bill was introduced, was in the 2003 session.

So is a hate crime law really needed in the state?

"I don't know if I would go so far as to say it's not needed," said Thyer.  "To be honest, I'm conflicted on the issue."

When dealing with hate crimes in the state of Arkansas, Thyer has a major concern.  The question at hand is should one be punished for his or her motive as well as the action, and if so, at what point should the line be drawn?

"I don't know that as a society we need to get into punishing people for what they think, regardless of how offensive their thoughts may be to me," said Thyer.