Timely and provocative in light of current events, “Hate Crime” examines race relations in the context of a courtroom thriller. Malcolm McLeod, an ambitious black criminal defense attorney, is assigned to represent a white supremacist, Hunter Kleiss, charged with stabbing to death a black community leader, Reverend Clay, during Kleiss’ protest of the re-naming of a city park after Martin Luther King Junior.
Despite overwhelming evidence of Kleiss’ guilt, Malcolm becomes convinced of his client’s innocence. He theorizes that instead of Kleiss, Reverend Clay’s murder was orchestrated by a gang leader who resented Clay’s preachings against the gang culture and his helping police arrest members of his gang. However, during the course of Kleiss’ trial, Malcolm begins to wonder if something more sinister and profound is behind Reverend Clay’s murder involving no less than what it means to be black in white America.
In addition to dealing with the troubled Kleiss and a difficult case, Malcolm is forced to confront his sense of self and re-assess his values by a mysterious visitor, a member of the former Black Panther Party. And to further complicate matters, during Kleiss’ trial, Malcolm has an affair with his blonde sister, Eva, herself battling demons after escaping a racist upbringing.
Even mentoring from his kindly, surrogate mother, Judge Lucretia Thomas, who raised him after his radical mother, was killed when Malcolm was only two years old in a shoot-out with the FBI while a member of the Black Panther Party, cannot help him deal with the legal and emotional problems of his case.
In the end, Malcolm is forced into a choice – does he remain on his present course obeying the rules and pursuing the goals of white America, or as the mysterious former Black Panther man urges, pursue a goal of justice for his race as his mother had wanted? Or is all that itself an illusion fueled by black radicalism gone amok. In the end, what does he choose? What is just?