Lynching refers to an extrajudicial killing by a group. Not every killing is murder. Some types of killings are considered manslaughter, while others are considered murder. In a lynching, a group believes that someone is guilty of something, and decides to kill that person without allowing the justice system to do its job. That is why it is called an extrajudicial killing. It is usually used to refer to public executions in an informal manner. For a long time, African Americans were lynched in the South due to real or perceived slights. In this manner, a lynching deprives someone of one of their basic human rights, which is the right to a trial in the United States.
For many years, lynching was legal in several states across the country. Recently, after multiple failed attempts, lynching officially became a federal crime. In March 2022, the White House signed the bill into law, and it is called the Emmett Till Antilynching Act. Many people were surprised that the tragic death of Emmett Till was not enough to lead to federal law at the time, but it is better late than never. Because there is a federal law against lynching, there is no state in the country where lynching is allowed. Now, lynching is considered a federal hate crime, finally acknowledging that lynching was, until very recently, a major problem in the United States.
The law is named after Emmett Till, an African American teenager who was tortured and killed in 1955. At the time, he was accused of whistling at a white woman, which led to an abduction by a group of white men. He was tortured for an extended amount of time, and he was eventually killed. The men suspected of committing the killing were Roy Bryant, J.W. Milam, and Roy Bryant’s half-brother. They were eventually arrested, charged, and tried for the crime, but they were quickly acquitted by a jury in Mississippi, which was made up of all-white jurors. In a magazine interview a short time later, the men admitted to the kidnapping, torturing, and killing of Emmett Till. Furthermore, the white woman, Carolyn Bryant, later admitted that Emmett Till never did anything to her.
In a lot of cases, justice is meted out at the state level in the United States. Therefore, the punishment for lynching will vary depending on where it is located. Typically, it is considered murder, so the punishment will be particularly severe. In addition, because there is a federal law against lynching, individuals can be charged under this specific federal hate crime statute. Someone who is found guilty of lynching at the federal level could face up to 30 years in prison if the conspiracy to commit a hate crime results in serious bodily injury or death.
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