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News: Tulsa Good Friday Shootings

Do Tulsa Shooting Deaths Qualify As 'Hate Crimes?'

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Jake England posted a racial slur on his Facebook page a day before the shootings. Jake England posted a racial slur on his Facebook page a day before the shootings.
Many believe the shooting deaths of three African Americans by two white men were racially motivated. Many believe the shooting deaths of three African Americans by two white men were racially motivated.
TU law Professor Tamara Piety says the post may be enough to convince the community, but it may not be enough to prove a hate crime in court. TU law Professor Tamara Piety says the post may be enough to convince the community, but it may not be enough to prove a hate crime in court.
TULSA, Oklahoma -

Authorities say although the suspects in the shooting deaths of the three African American victims are two white men, they still need solid evidence to prove it's a hate crime.

A Tulsa law professor says when it comes down to it, murder is the more heinous crime.

Many believe the crime was racially motivated. Some call it a "hate crime," but District Attorney Tim Harris says it's all in the evidence.

"This is not ‘hide the ball.' This is presenting the evidence. If we can find the motivation was behind these killings, and it sufficiently meets the evidence of a hate crime, then we'll file a hate crime," Harris said.

4/9/2012 Related Story: Judge Orders North Tulsa Murder Suspects Held On $9 Million Bond Each

Harris says there is a federal hate crime law and a state statute. A hate crime is when anyone commits assault or battery or makes public statements based on race gender nationality or origin.

Two years ago, suspect Jake England's father was shot and killed. A black man was arrested as a suspect. Carl England's death was later ruled a justifiable homicide.

A day before the shootings, 19-year-old England, used a racial slur to describe a man who killed his father.

The Facebook post says "Today is two years that my dad has been gone shot by a f***ing n***er it's hard not to go off between that and sheran I'm gone in the head."

4/9/2012 Related Story: Facebook, Neighbor Paint Conflicting Views Of Suspected Tulsa Shooter

"They are looking for evidence that one or both of these individuals had some sort of racial animus towards blacks or the black community," said Tamara Piety, Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Professor of Law at the University of Tulsa.

Piety says the post is evidence, but it may not be enough to prove a hate crime in the courtroom.

"Occasionally you have hate crime situations where somebody has memberships to the organization like the Ku Klux Klan where you can say, yes this person has racial animus," Piety said. "But more often racial animus makes itself felt in very subtle ways that are very hard to identify."

Piety says investigators will look at all the facts and the backgrounds of the suspects. However, she says the community may still see it another way.

"The crime is not only bad because of the act itself, but because of the violence it might engender in the community response," said TU law Professor Tamara Piety.

Professor Piety says the worst crime these suspects could be charged with is murder, because then it's a possibility that the death penalty could be the punishment.

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