Was it hate? Tulsa murder case shines light on lack of bias crime data


McClatchy reports: Stanley Vernon Majors was a neighbor from hell.

For five years, according to witness accounts and court papers, Majors terrorized the Jabara family living next door to him in suburban Tulsa, Oklahoma.

He disrupted their family gatherings. He hassled visitors if they parked in front of his house. He hurled racial slurs at a black friend of the family. He even made false claims to health inspectors, the Jabaras said, sabotaging their lucrative catering contract providing hummus to Whole Foods stores.

Majors often mentioned the family’s Arab roots in his tirades; one police report quoted him as calling them “filthy Lebanese.” He also used “Ay-rabs” and “Mooslems,” recalled the Jabaras, who are Christians.

The harassment took a violent turn last September, when Majors was charged with ramming his car into the Jabara family’s 65-year-old matriarch, Haifa, who suffered a collapsed lung, head trauma and broken bones from her nose to her ankle. Majors was awaiting trial on charges from that incident when, last Friday, according to the authorities, he walked next door and fired four shots at 37-year-old Khalid Jabara, killing him on his front porch.

Among Arab and Muslim Americans, the case immediately was viewed as a hate crime, with Jabara portrayed as the latest victim in a bloody wave of attacks against people perceived as foreigners or Muslims. “Hate was definitely part of it. This guy did hate our family,” said Jabara’s brother, Rami, speaking by phone to McClatchy this week.

Yet despite the well-documented history of Majors’ targeting the family, there’s no guarantee that prosecutors will seek hate crime charges in addition to the murder charge against him. Legal specialists who track hate-crime prosecutions nationwide say the Jabara case is likely to run into the same hurdles that civil rights advocates have warned about in numerous studies: Hate crime laws can be prohibitively difficult to use, narrow as to what offenses are covered, and dependent on police who often have no obligation to report – or lack training in how to respond to – crimes involving bias.

That disconnect – having laws on the books but problems using them – is a source of growing frustration for Arab-American, Muslim and other civil rights activists who have seen numerous attacks that appear to have been motivated by racial or religious hatred, but weren’t considered that way under the law. The result, activists say, is the loss of confidence in the justice system just as a nasty political climate deepens fears of bias-motivated attacks. [Continue reading…]

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