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Ken Turchi
IU Maurer School of Law

Last modified: Monday, March 19, 2012

Rutgers verdict redefines hate crimes, IU Maurer School of Law expert says

March 19, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The March 16 conviction of a former Rutgers University student on hate crime charges is particularly noteworthy in several ways, according to an Indiana University Maurer School of Law professor with expertise in this arena.

"The conviction of Dharun Ravi illustrates that juries are more likely than ever to convict persons who engage in bullying," said Jeannine Bell. "Defenses based on youth and immaturity are proving to be no match for charges of bias intimidation."

In the undisputed facts of the case, Ravi set up a webcam on his computer and went to a friend's room where he observed his roommate, Tyler Clementi, kissing another man. Ravi then sent as many as 38 Twitter messages to friends inviting them to watch the video feed. Three days later, Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

"This case sends a message that jurors are increasingly likely to feel the pain of hate crime targets," Bell said. "The conviction on the charge of bias intimidation is especially significant because it signals the jury's desire to send a message to young people that such behavior will not be tolerated."

Bell noted that the verdict is also unusual because it involved a white victim and a perpetrator who is a person of color.

An expert on hate crimes, Bell is the author of "Policing Hatred," which explores how police officers investigate hate crimes. Her forthcoming book, "Hate Thy Neighbor," examines the role of hate in integrating neighborhoods.

Bell is available to comment on the Ravi case and other hate crime matters. She can be reached at 812-856-5013 or