UT Arlington to host Nov. 8 Civil Rights Conference focused on hate crimes

Discussions will address investigation, prosecution

ARLINGTON, Texas - The University of Texas at Arlington will be host of a major Civil Rights Conference next month focused on the landmark, 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

The conference is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011, in the E.H. Hereford University Center’s Rio Grande Ballroom, 300 W. First St. The event is geared toward law enforcement professionals, but also is open to the public.

Seating is limited. Attendees should register online by Friday, Nov. 4.    

The agenda will feature an address by Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez of the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C. 

The event is a “unique opportunity for both practitioners and academics to come together and discuss different aspects of the civil rights issue in a unique academic setting,” said Alex del Carmen, chairman of UT Arlington’s Criminology and Criminal Justice Department.

The Shepard-Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act gives federal authorities broader jurisdiction to prosecute violent hate crimes. Specifically, the law makes it a federal crime to willfully inflict bodily injury against another person, or to attempt to do so with a dangerous weapon because of the person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin, or, if the crime affected interstate commerce, because of the person’s actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

Matthew Shepard, 21, was a student at the University of Wyoming who was tortured and murdered in October 1998. During a trial, witnesses stated that Shepard was targeted because of his sexual orientation.

The violent death catapulted LGBT-based hate crimes into the national dialogue and international spotlight.

James Byrd, Jr., 49, was targeted in a racially motivated crime in Jasper, Texas in June 1998. He died after being chained to a pickup truck and dragged for miles down a rural, bumpy road.

The case renewed attention on race relations in the U.S., with groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the Black Panthers, among others, trying to exploit the notoriety of the case.

The training seminar is designed to provide law enforcement officers and community groups with an overview of the federal hate crimes and community groups with an overview of the federal hate crimes statutes and strategies for identifying, investigating, prosecuting, and preventing hate crimes.

The 2011 Civil Rights Conference is sponsored by the Dallas Division of the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas. It is hosted by UT Arlington’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice and UT Arlington Police Department, with assistance by the Arlington Police Department.

“The fact that UT Arlington’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice was chosen to host the conference serves as evidence that for the past few years, our department has made a significant effort to reach out to criminal justice agencies in particular, in an effort to build stronger relationships which benefit our students, faculty and community members at large,” del Carmen said.

Visit www.uta.edu/criminology/ to learn more about the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of 33,449 students in the heart of North Texas. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.

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Media contact: Bridget Lewis, Blewis@uta.edu, 817-272-3317

The University of Texas at Arlington, www.uta.edu

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