Lawmakers propose tougher hate crime law

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) -  Two Republican lawmakers from Jefferson County are proposing legislation for the 2019 General Assembly that would strengthen Kentucky’s hate crime law.


The measure, sponsored by Reps. Jason Nemes and Jerry Miller, both from Louisville, would include criminal homicide and fetal homicide as hate crimes in Kentucky.


Crimes such as murder, manslaughter, and reckless homicide that are motivated because of someone’s race, color, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, or employment are currently not included in Kentucky's hate crime law. In their proposal, those found guilty in the attempt or solicitation of these
crimes can also be found guilty of a hate crime.


"Kentucky needs stricter punishments for those who commit murder based on someone's identity, such as race, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, or employment," said Nemes, the primary sponsor.  “Bigotry, hatred, and violence have no place in our society and will not be tolerated."


The legislation, filed on Wednesday, comes after a man killed two people at a Kroger in Jeffersontown on Oct. 24. The suspect, 51-year-old Gregory Bush, who was captured shortly after the shooting, is white.  Both victims, Maurice Stallard, 69, and Vickie Lee Jones, 67, were African-American, and the murders are being investigated as a possible federal hate crime.


During a news conference the day after the shooting, Jeffersontown police revealed that Bush attempted to go to the predominantly African-American First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown on Wednesday, but failed, then went to the Kroger a few minutes later, where he gunned down Stallard and Jones. 


Miller said what happened is a tragedy.  "During the 2019 legislative session, we will strive to strengthen Kentucky's hate crime laws so that everyone, no matter your background, feels safer. Heinous actions like the one committed in Jeffersontown have no place in Kentucky and those who commit such crimes should be severely punished."


The hate crimes act also is applicable because of a person's actual or perceived employment as a state, city, county, or federal peace officer, member of an organized fire department, or emergency medical services personnel.


The bill is expected to come for discussion during the Interim Joint Committee on Friday at the University of Louisville Law School.

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