Why was Vicha Ratanapakdee killed?


Monthanus and Eric were busy planning his father’s funeral while answering phone calls and messages from family, friends and strangers. A victims lawyer appointed by the district attorney’s office helped the couple seek state reimbursement for cremation, funeral and other expenses. Donations poured into their GoFundMe page, and they exceeded their goal of $ 10,000 in a matter of days. Mayor London Breed and President Nancy Pelosi offered their condolences. The support was overwhelming and strange. Someone had falsely claimed to reporters that he was Visha’s son and had spoken out on behalf of the family about what would happen to his remains. Another person claiming to be Vicha’s son had organized a fundraiser on his behalf.

That week, February 4, the couple spoke with San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin on an appeal. A former public defender, Boudin was part of a new wave of progressive prosecutors who took office the previous year with the promise of reform. Monthanus and Eric voted for him. Now they wanted action. “We were like, ‘Is this a hate crime? “He said to me, ‘I can’t talk about it,'” said Eric. “It’s just the way he answered the question that made me feel like he didn’t really care about our emotions, what we were asking.”

Boudin, who could not discuss the details of the case, understood where Eric and Monthanus were coming from. “Whenever a family is the victim of a violent crime, a homicide in particular, there are questions,” Boudin told me. “Why did this happen? How could it have been avoided? Often times the natural human response is to want someone to be responsible for the pain you feel. He added,“ Although our system is good enough to handle it. dealing with cases and punishing, we are not effective at providing the kind of answers to families who are suffering and who need to feel a sense of closure, or to be able to move on with their lives, after suffering an often unthinkable harm.

Most states – 48, as well as the District of Columbia – have laws regarding hate crimes motivated by a victim’s race, religion, or sexual orientation, among other classifications. These laws can add time to an underlying sentence; in California, they can extend a sentence of three years. But in practice, proving bias is difficult, especially when there is no explicit expression of it. After interviewing prosecutors in more than 30 states, Avlana Eisenberg, professor of law at Florida State University, found that district attorney’s offices “often avoid adding even hate crime charges – and maybe especially – when the crime is particularly horrific, ”she wrote in The Atlantic this year. This is partly because the accused is already facing a long prison sentence, and also because, as one prosecutor put it, “it is impossible to know what is in someone’s heart. “. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported in June that federal prosecutors refused to prosecute hate crime charges in about four out of five cases from 2005 to 2019, citing “insufficient evidence.”

If Watson is convicted of murder, he faces 25 years in life imprisonment. Being convicted of a hate crime would not extend such a sentence significantly, but the designation has always symbolized more for victims and their families: the difference between exposing prejudice and denying it.

A month after the Atlanta shooting, a white gunman killed eight people at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis. Four of the victims were Sikhs, prompting calls to determine whether the shooter was motivated by prejudice. Investigators interviewed around 100 people and examined 175,000 computer files, some of which indicated the shooter had visited white supremacist websites. In July, however, the FBI concluded that the gunman, who committed suicide after the shooting, had not acted out of “bias or a desire to advance an ideology,” but suffered from a mental illness and had committed “suicidal murder”. The Sikh Coalition, an advocacy group, issued a statement asking the office to clarify “how and why” it ruled out bias as the motive: “Although law enforcement said this investigation was over , for all the families who have lost loved ones, the survivors, the Sikh community and anyone else affected by hate violence, these questions will remain forever. “

The Covid-19 hate crimes law, passed with bipartisan support and enacted by President Biden in May, is primarily aimed at improving crime reporting and data collection. While it does not change the legal definition of a hate crime, the legislation commits funds to expedite federal reviews of hate crime investigations and approves grants for local law enforcement agencies. It also encourages these agencies to educate the public about the impact of hate crimes and the services available to victims. The law was celebrated for recognizing the need to better track violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. But he also drew criticism for effectively supporting more policing at a time when law enforcement was under scrutiny, as well as for failing to address the root causes of racism or criminality.

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