The case of Mitchell v. Wisconsin

Essay by Master1College, UndergraduateA+, November 1996

download word file, 12 pages 4.2

On June 11, 1993, the United State Supreme Court upheld Wisconsin's

penalty enhancement law, which imposes harsher sentences on criminals

who "intentionally select the person against whom the

committed..because of the race, religion, color, disability, sexual

orientation, national origin or ancestry of that person." Chief

Justice Rehnquist deliverd the opinion of the unanimous Court. This

paper argues against the decision, and will attempt to prove the

unconstitutionality of such penalty enhancement laws.

On the evening of October 7, 1989, Mitchell and a group of young

black men attacked and severely beat a lone white boy. The group had

just finished watching the film "Mississippi Burning", in which a

young black boy was, while praying, beaten by a white man. After the

film, the group moved outside and Mitchell asked if they felt "hyped

up to move on some white people". When the white boy approached

Mitchell said, "You all want to fuck somebody up? There goes a white

boy, Go get him."

The boy was left unconscious, and remained in a

coma for four days. Mitchell was convicted of aggravated battery,

which carries a two year maximum sentence. The Wisconsin jury,

however, found that because Mitchell selected his victim based on

race, the penalty enhancement law allowed Mitchell to be sentenced to

up to seven years. The jury sentenced Mitchell to four years, twice

the maximum for the crime he committed without the penalty enhancement


The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling was faulty, and defied a number of

precedents. The Wisconsin law is unconstitutional, and is essentially

unenforceable. This paper primarily focuses on the constitutional

arguments against Chief Justice Rehnquist's decision and the statute

itself, but will also consider the practical implications of the

Wisconsin law, as well as a similar law passed under the new federal

crime bill...