Disability-Bias Hate Crimes

DREDF Calls for Prosecution of Disability–Bias Hate Crimes Following Premeditated Killing of Teenage Boy with Autism

On June 10th Alex Spourdalakis, a 14–year–old boy with Autism, was murdered by his mother and godmother at his home in River Grove, Illinois. After attempting to kill him with an overdose of sleeping pills, his caregivers stabbed him multiple times in the chest and slit his wrists. It is evident that this violent act was premeditated and motivated by Alex’s disability.

The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) calls for the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to prosecute the murder of Alex Spourdalakis under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. The federal government may prosecute a violent act as a hate crime when “the crime was committed because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability of any person” as it was in the case of Alex Spourdalakis.

While the death of Alex Spourdalakis is horrific and shocking, violence against people with disabilities on the whole is not uncommon. According to the 2012 Bureau of Justice Statistics report on Crimes Against Persons with Disabilities, the average annual rate of violent victimization for persons with disabilities was more than twice the rate among persons without disabilities. Federal and state reports indicate that unlike other targets of biased–motivated crimes, people with disabilities are the least likely to report the crime to the police. The insidious cultural belief that the life of a person with a disability is not worth living often obscures public understanding of hate crimes directed at people with disabilities as abuse or even mercy killing. As such, these violent acts are not met with an appropriate punitive response. It is therefore imperative for protection of the lives and livelihoods of all persons with disabilities that the perpetrators of the crime against Alex Spourdalakis be prosecuted to the fullest extent under law.


  1. U.S. Department of Justice. Crime Against Persons with Disabilities: 2009–2011–Statistical Tables. By Erika Harrell. Washington: Bureau of Justice Statistics, December 2012. (NCJ 240299).
  2. U.S. Department of Justice. Hate Crime, 2003–2009. By Lynn Langton and Michael Planty. Washington: Bureau of Justice Statistics, June 2011. (NCJ 234985).
  3. State of California Department of Justice. Report of the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Commission on Hate Crimes. By Joseph McNamara and Edward James Olmos, et all. Sacramento: The California Attorney General’s Civil Rights Commission on Hate Crimes, March 2001.