In University of Colorado Case, Jury Decides Yelling “Nigger” During an Assault Does Not Constitute a Hate Crime

Last June a black mechanical engineering student at the University of Colorado in Boulder was accosted by a white man in a van who called him a “nigger.” The van then pulled over and a second occupant apologized for his friend’s remarks. But the man who yelled the slurs got out of the van and punched the black man twice, breaking his jaw. The black student was knocked unconscious. Friends took him to the hospital where a permanent titanium plate was inserted to replace his broken jaw bone.

A white man was convicted on assault charges earlier this month in the case and sentenced to a maximum of 16 years in prison. But the jury decided not to convict the white man of ethnic intimidation, which would have resulted in an additional one to three years in jail. The jury, which had only one black member, concluded that the use of the term “nigger” prior to the attack did not necessarily imply that the attack was motivated by racial hate.

After hearing the verdict, the victim in the case told the Rocky Mountain News, “The fact that he broke my face is more important than that he hurt my feelings.”

Copyright © 2006. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.