Student entries

The Case of Keith Luke (Part 3 of 3: analysis and reflections)


This continues our series of student reflections and analysis authored by our research team.


The Case of Keith Luke (Part 3 of 3: analysis and reflections)

Caitlin Marsengill

This is the third and final journal in a three part series on the case of Keith Luke. The first journal was a general overview and background information on the case and the second was on the prosecution and legal proceedings surrounding the case. I recommend reading the other two journals before this one to gain a full understanding of the background information and legal proceedings that are briefly discussed in this journal. This final journal will be an analysis and reflection of the case. As a disclaimer this case is particularly egregious as the crimes he committed sexual assault, violent, and racially motivated.

Keith Luke is a neo-Nazi that went on a shooting rampage on January 21, 2009 that resulted in the death of two people and the rape and severe injury of a third. He intentionally sought out his targets due to their Cape Verdean descent. He was convicted of two counts of first degree murder among other charges, and was serving two consecutive life sentences in prison without the possibility of parole.

While researching this case, it felt as though I kept uncovering more horrific and unusual facts surrounding the case with every article I read. Some of the most shocking and repugnant details include Keith Luke telling investigators he raped his victim because he did not want to die a virgin and that he had been “turned down “100,000 [expletive] times,” carving a swastika into his forehead with a staple during his trial, to sleeping on a cinderblock cross, it was shocking to keep uncovering more details that continued to surprise me on the limitless capacity for humans to be horrible.

While incarcerated, Keith Luke attempted suicide multiple times and was hospitalized for trying to slit his own throat. He ultimately succeeded in May of 2014 and his mother decided to donate his organs. There often is some uneasiness around people receiving organs from inmates. However, there is a lot of support for inmate organ donations within the medical community. In particular, Dr. Shu S. Lin, a surgeon at the Duke Pulmonary Transplant Clinic in Durham, N.C stated in a 2012 manuscript published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that there is “seemingly insurmountable shortage of donor organs” and “one more organ donor means at least one life, and typically more lives saved,” thus in his eyes, justifying the need and overall positive impact inmate organ donors have in helping people in need. It is unknown how many people Keith Luke’s organs may have helped, however it is known that they went to several recipients.

One thing that I found very surprising is that this case was not being prosecuted as a hate crime. The FBI defines a hate crime as “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” This case clearly falls under the definition of a hate crime due to Luke’s clear racial bias that motivated him to commit the crimes. Hate crimes come with harsher sentences due to Penalty-Enhancement Laws. “Under these laws, a perpetrator can face more severe penalties if the prosecutor can demonstrate, beyond a reasonable doubt, for the trier of fact that the victim was intentionally targeted on the basis of his personal characteristics because of the perpetrator’s bias against the victim” (Garlick, 2018).

It seems likely that the prosecutor could have demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that the victims were intentionally targeted on the basis of their personal characteristics e.g. race. It is unclear as to why they decided to not charge it as a hate crime. Hate crime laws are important in protecting victims and their communities and can “demonstrate an important commitment to confront and deter criminal activity motivated by prejudice” (Garlick, 2018).

Works Cited:

Garlick, Melissa. “Hate Crime Laws.” In Hate Crimes: Typology, Motivations, and Victims, edited by Robin Maria Valeri and Kevin Borgeson, 50–85. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2018.

Hate Crimes [Folder]. (n.d.). Retrieved December 6, 2019, from Federal Bureau of Investigation website: https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/civil-rights/hate-crimes

Reporter, S. (n.d.). Organs of convicted killer Keith Luke donated. Retrieved December 6, 2019, from MetroWest Daily News, Framingham, MA website: https://www.metrowestdailynews.com/article/20140520/NEWS/305219985

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