15 May 2005

Mob Actions (Lynching)

In a comment to the lynching post a couple days back, Mister DA asks:
Seriously, has anyone ever been successfully prosecuted under this statute? As opposed to just charging the ringleaders with murder?
Personally, I've never heard of anyone getting prosecuted as a member of a mob for this specific act. However, there are a number of statutes which deal with this subject:
§ 18.2-38: Any collection of people, assembled for the purpose and with the intention of committing an assault or a battery upon any person or an act of violence as defined in § 19.2-297.1, without authority of law, shall be deemed a "mob."

§ 18.2-39: Any act of violence by a mob upon the body of any person, which shall result in the death of such person, shall constitute a "lynching."

§ 18.2-40. Lynching deemed murder: Every lynching shall be deemed murder. Any and every person composing a mob and any and every accessory thereto, by which any person is lynched, shall be guilty of murder, and upon conviction, shall be punished as provided in Article 1 (§ 18.2-30 et seq.) of this chapter.

§ 18.2-43: The attorney for the Commonwealth of any county or city in which a lynching may occur shall promptly and diligently endeavor to ascertain the identity of the persons who in any way participated therein, or who composed the mob which perpetrated the same, and have them apprehended, and shall promptly proceed with the prosecution of any and all persons so found; and to the end that such offenders may not escape proper punishment, such attorney for the Commonwealth may be assisted in all such endeavors and prosecutions by the Attorney General, or other prosecutors designated by the Governor for the purpose; and the Governor may have full authority to spend such sums as he may deem necessary for the purpose of seeking out the identity, and apprehending the members of such mob.

§ 18.2-44: No provisions of this article shall be construed to relieve any member of a mob from civil liability to the personal representative of the victim of a lynching.

§ 18.2-45: Every person suffering death from a mob attempting to lynch another person shall come within the provisions of this article, and his personal representative shall be entitled to relief in the same manner and to the same extent as if he were the originally intended victim of such mob.

§ 18.2-46: Venue for all actions and prosecutions under any of the provisions of this article shall be in the county or city wherein a lynching or other violation of any of the provisions of this article may have occurred, or of the county or city from which the person lynched or assaulted may have been taken as aforesaid.
I believe that if you talked to a historian he'd probably tell you that these laws were anit-Klan laws and variations on the theme are probably found in different Southern States. I suspect that they were probably ignored for the most part for years but I'm sure some people were prosecuted under them.

The interesting thing is that these statutes are finding new life as anti-gang weapons. A group of "Montagues" piles in a couple of cars and drive down the street in the wrong part of town. One of them opens fire on "Capulets" standing on a street corner, killing two. You've got a solid case against the shooter, a solid principal case against the driver, but what about the kid who's a backseat passenger in the second car from which nobody fired. Is he even a principal in the second degree? Is he aiding and abetting?

With these statutes you don't have to worry about that. He's there as part of the mob. This fits the definition of a lynching. The kid is facing a pretty solid lynching / murder case.

I have seen a couple of cases with kids charged in this vein although I can only think of one which involved an actual murder (there are also other mob violence charges for malicious wounding, A&B, and other lesser charges).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, there was a case in California several years ago in which a juvenile was convicted of lynching himself. In re Anthony J., 85 Cal. Rptr. 2d 783 (Ct. App. 1999).

Obviously the California statute is quite different from the Virginia one . . . .

Bill Logan