Currently, the punishment for murder includes death, life in prison without the possibility of parole or life in prison.
Since the targeted killing of a police officer could be considered “bias motivated intimidation” of a first responder, the ACLU says a legal argument called the “rule of lenity” requires courts to pursue the charge that is the most favorable to a defendant.
“So now, if you kill a police officer in Georgia, and it’s done under the statute of bias motivated intimidation, upon sentencing you can be sentenced between one to five years, instead of the mandatory life sentence,” said ACLU of Georgia lobbyist Christopher Bruce.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jesse Stone, a Waynesboro Republican and attorney, said he was made aware of a potential problem with the legislation late Friday.
“I think if they were charged with bias motivated (intimidation), that might be a concern,” said Stone, who voted for HB 838 and is retiring this year. “I haven’t studied it, but I think it’s something that should be looked into.”
The bill is now on Gov. Brian Kemp's desk for his approval. On Friday, he signed House Bill 426 into law, getting a hate-crimes bill on the books for the first time in 16 years. HB 426 will go into effect Wednesday.