A dragging death is a death caused by dragging a person underneath or behind an automobile. This type of death can be accidental or intentional, but it is most commonly mentioned as a type of murder relating to hate crimes. In some cases, this type of murder is related to lynching or other traditional racist crimes in the United States of America. As such, a dragging death is often taken seriously by the community in which it occurs, as this can be an indication that a hate crime has occurred.
In a technical sense, a dragging death is any death that occurs when a person is dragged by an automobile. The cause of death in these cases is usually complex and may be related to events that occur before a person begins to be dragged. This type of death is not necessarily murder in every case, but the term is so stained by its connection to hate crimes that other terminology is usually used when the death is accidental. In some cases, people use this term to refer to killing an animal by dragging it behind an automobile as well, which is a case of severe animal abuse.
One of the most famous dragging deaths in the United States of America occurred in 1998 in Jasper, Texas. A black man named James Byrd, Jr. was dragged to death by three white men. His death is often considered one of the most horrifying examples of lynching by dragging. Evidence gathered during his autopsy suggests that he was alive during most of the dragging and that his death was the result of decapitation. This event led directly to increased interest in hate crime legislation.
There are many important features that determine how serious a dragging death is considered. Even though this type of murder is considered heinous on its own, racist intentions and motive usually make people consider the crime to be even worse. A dragging death entails a large degree of torture because the victim is often alive during dragging. Also, when a dragging murder occurs as a racist crime, other activities like mutilation of the body and post-murder celebrations may occur.
It is important to mention that it is possible to have an accidental dragging death, but that alternative terminology is usually used in these cases. For example, a person whom is hit by a car and becomes lodged in such a way that he or she is dragged can be considered a dragging death victim, but people will usually say that the individual was dragged to death. This is an example of how a particular ritual form of murder can become linked with the intended message of that murder.