The killing of a transgender teen back in January is shining some light on South Carolina's absence of hate crime laws. Adolphus Simmons was shot outside of his Bream Road apartment, and a 15-year-old boy was later arrested and charged with murder in the case.
Greg Hambrick of the Charleston City Paper writes:
Initial reports quoted North Charleston officials as saying there was nothing to suggest the killing was a hate crime. But the department now says that's because South Carolina has no hate crimes statute. Lt. James Wally says no motive has been identified, and he would not rule out the possibility that Simmons was targeted because of his perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
The lack of hate crime laws not only makes it harder to press for more potent charges, it also makes it harder for the state to charge the youth as an adult. Hambrick continues:
The federal hate crime statute does not protect gays and the transgendered from targeted violence, but even if it did, law enforcement and legal officials say it likely wouldn't apply in this case because the accused is a minor, signifying at least one area where federal law would need a companion at the state level to be fully enforced.
South Carolina is one of only five states that does not have hate crime laws.