In some places they call that mob rule.
In San Francisco it's called criminal justice.

I have no issue with those in the gay community who view this as a hate crime. I don't begrudge them their opinion in the slightest.

If I were gay, and I had grown up the object of the hate, disdain, physical intimidation, and abuse that so many gays and lesbians have experienced, I would look at a situation where a gay man was punched and died, accompanied by the word "faggot," and want the same thing: for the assailant to die, or go to prison for life. Hell, I would want to slowly roast him over hot coals myself.

When I hear of particularly ugly crimes, or crimes that push an emotional button for me (among other things, child abuse and animal abuse do it for me), my first reaction is something akin to "Hang the bastard." (And no, I don't have an animus against illegitimate children.)

But when I can, I vote for politicians who oppose the death penalty. More than anything else, I want people in public office who act as filters, who moderate public rage, even my rage, when it does not logically fit a situation.

I want a jailer who can stop the mob from dragging a man out of the jailhouse and lynching him in the town square -- even and especially when I am a member of that mob.

Unfortunately, Terence Hallinan is not that kind of public official. He is a conduit of sentiments, a messenger of the rage of political constituencies.

He has not attained the level of leadership where he could walk into rooms with leaders and members of the gay community and explain that Mora is not Aaron McKinney, and Wilmes is not Matthew Shepard, and that if we adhere to this kind of simple-minded moral arithmetic, we devalue what took place in Wyoming, what happened to that poor, sweet young man. We devalue the evil that lurks in our world, and we confuse the evil that is McKinney and Henderson with the confused anger of an Edgar Mora. And if we do that, we will in a short period of time fail to recognize evil altogether.

But making that argument would be the hard thing to do. It would take courage and moral clarity and intelligence. And in San Francisco, I guess, we don't have enough of those qualities in the District Attorney's Office, or, maybe, in ourselves.

George Cothran ( can be reached at SF Weekly, 185 Berry, Suite 3800, San Francisco,

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