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Posts for July, 2011

Gay Panic Law on trial

Timothy Kincaid

July 22nd, 2011

Brandon McInerney and defense attorney Scott Wippert (Los Angeles Times; Nick Ut, AP Photo)

The witnesses have spoken and the evidence has been heard in the murder trial of Brandon McInerney. And there is no dispute over most of the facts.

Everyone agrees that McInerney shot Lawrence King during computer class three years ago. And it is well established that they had long feuded, starting when McInerney and his friends tormented King and continuing through Kings eventual taunting of McInerney by flirting with him. And both were aware that their behavior was unwelcomed by the other.

And it has also been shown that Lawrence King had recently announced that he was gay and had began experimenting with gender roles and expression. Lawrence had on some occasions worn makeup and boots designed and marketed to women. And the prosecution and the defense both agree – though in different ways and with different purpose – that when Brandon McInernery killed Lawrence King it was due to a large degree because King was gay.

The only dispute in this case is over what that means.

The prosecution argued that McInerney was a white supremest who shot King because he hated gay people. Her argument rests on evidence such as hundreds of white supremacy and Nazi images scrawled in McInerney’s books, on his shoes and his backpacks, 154 pages of Hitler speeches and books on the Nazi youth, his involvement in a street gang, and his mentoring by a local white supremest with whom he stayed the night before the murder. And because his motivation for actually killing King was based in hatred for homosexuals, she argues that hate crime provisions justify an increased sentence.

The defense attorney has a different take on the matter. His effort has been dedicated to painting King as a dirty nasty fag who couldn’t keep off of a strong young straight man and who provoked McInerney until he reacted in the heat of the moment. I mean, who wouldn’t be disgusted and horrified to have some mincing make-up wearing little queen flirt with you and embarrass you and, well, okay maybe it was a rash decision to shoot him, but who wouldn’t do the same?

This is called the Gay Panic defense. And while it is immoral, vile, and harmful to society, defense attorneys continue to use it whenever they can. For one reason. (LATimes)

Gay panic defenses are used because they often work, said Cynthia Lee, a law professor who wrote a 2008 UC Berkeley Law School Review article on the topic. In February 2006, a Kentucky man successfully won a lighter sentence after using a gay panic argument, according to a report by Equality California.

In the same year, a Fresno man who stabbed a transgender person 20 times agreed and was permitted to plead guilty to a reduced crime that brought a four-year sentence. The Fresno district attorney reportedly cited the difficulty of overcoming a panic strategy as a reason for offering the plea deal.

“There is no question that when murder defendants argue gay panic, they seek to tap into deep-seated biases against and stereotypes about gay men as deviant sexual predators who pose a threat to innocent young heterosexual males,” Lee wrote in the law review article.

But there is one change to the equation. In September 2006, the California State Legislature passed, and Governor Schwarzenegger signed, the Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act. This legislation does not ban or in any other way infringe on the defense’s right to say whatever he liked. But it does allow a prosecutor to have the judge read a statement reminding the jury that everyone deserves the same promise of justice and that they should resist the temptation to base their decision on prejudice:

Do not let bias, sympathy, prejudice, or public opinion influence your decision. Bias includes bias against the victim or victims based upon his or her disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

The prosecutor is invoking her Gay Panic clause and this will be the first case in which a judge cautions a jury not to use anti-gay bias.

And so it is not really McInerney that is on trial here. His guilt was evident from the beginning. Rather, this trial is about gay panic and whether a blatant appeal to anti-gay bigotry will influence a jury, even after they have been instructed by the judge not to not let it do so.

Suspect Blames Musinex in NC Hate Crime Murder

Jim Burroway

February 16th, 2011
Michael Anderson

Michael Anderson

The may be the “Twinkie defense” of 2010. Michael Anderson, 19, near Hickory, N.C., shot his roommate, Stephen Starr, 36, in the home they shared Monday. According to Catawba County sheriff Coy Reid, Anderson shot Starr “and took an ax to him” in “one of the nastiest crime scenes I’ve been to.” Reid also said that Anderson carved a word onto his body, and wrote words on him in pen. He wouldn’t say what was written, but said he believes the writings and carving happened after Starr was killed. At about the time of the murder, Anderson posted a message on facebook:

In all capital letters, Anderson posted: “God forgive me of my sins of which I have done plz let your holy name be with me as I go to the heavenly place they will not take me alive my killing starts tonight I kill one by one hopefully I kill more than one though you it seems that I would rather want to kill a lot more you know but oh well one will do I guess but if you get in my way you will be next.”

A short time later, Anderson posted “i finally cracked guys i really did it this time guys.”

Today, police released a recording of the 911 call Anderson made at the time of the murder, telling the operator, “I did some things to his body that you don’t want them to see. You’re not going to know who it is.” He blamed a combination of Mucinex and gay panic for the bloody murder:

“I Od’d on Mucinex DM. Dextromethorphan makes me feel a little weird and I took too many,” Anderson said.

About 4 minutes and 30 seconds into the call, the telecommunicator asks what sparked the attack. Anderson said it was because he was straight, and Starr was gay. According to him, the two met at a gay club. Anderson said he was straight, but went to the club to experiment.

“I met him and went to his house and he took me in and I turned straight again. And he wanted to touch me and stuff and I wouldn’t let him, and he kept trying. And I waited until he went to sleep and then I shot him three times. And I mutilated him very badly and I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Oh God, please help me.”

The earlier report however describes Anderson as Starr’s roommate, not a one-night-stand pick-up. The detailed directions Anderson gave to the 911 operator are telling:

Anderson sounds distraught in the call. However, he is able to give the telecommunicator exact directions to Starr’s house on Ruth Drive, describing where to turn, how the house looks and other details, including that the green truck parked in the driveway is a manual truck. He then adds one final one detail.

“There’s wood out there that I was chopping,” he said. “I’m sorry ma’am, but the ax is inside his stomach.”

How many one-night-stands do you think are willing help out with household chores?

Sometimes Freud Was Right

Jim Burroway

November 11th, 2009
A man with issues.

A man with issues.

On Monday, Marine reservist Jasen Bruce attacked a visiting Greek Orthodox priest with a tire iron after the priest asked him for directions. Bruce originally claimed that he attacked Rev. Alexois Marakis, whose English is poor, because he thought the man was an Islamic terrorist. Now Bruce, who’s also a beefcake model, is changing his story. He’s switching to the gay panic defense, claiming the priest tried to grab his genitals.

How many issues can you count in that paragraph?

The Ft. Worth Police Department Has A Gay Panic Problem

Jim Burroway

June 29th, 2009

Ft. Worth police have issued a press release (Word Doc: 34KB/2 pages) blaming club patrons for police officers’ excessive show of force during Sunday morning’s raid on the Rainbow Lounge on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion. The cops are raising their own version of the “gay panic” defense, claiming that two patrons made “sexually explicit movements” and another “grabbed the [Texas Alcoholic Beverages Commission] agent’s groin.”

People on the scene find those charges incredible. Todd Camp, a former Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reporter who was at the bar, said, “No one was acting aggressive to officers.” Another eyewitness, Chuch Potter, told a local CBS affiliate, “I can guarantee there wasn’t a man in this bar that would’ve touched one of those officers, knowing they were arresting people.”

Even straight people at the Fort Worth Weekly find the police department’s shrieking sex-crazed-zombie-homos excuse unbelievable. Straight guy Jeff Prince was working on a story that took him to another gay bar a few years ago, and steeled himself against the guaranteed out of control lecherous onslaught that awaited him:

As I sat there, I kept figuring one of these guys would hit on me. I was going to politely explain to them that I wasn’t that way. Except nobody paid any attention to me. For 10 or 15 minutes not a single person spoke to me or approached me. I was relieved and offended at the same time. What am I chopped liver?

Another straight dude Weeklyteer Dan McGraw did a cover story called “Waking Up the Rainbow” in 2005 about gay politics in Fort Worth and spent several nights incognito at a gay bar called Best Friends. He had a similar experience of being ignored. “It was like hanging out at any other bar,” he said. “Most of the guys had been married before and had kids.”

For some reason, however, Fort Worth police and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission officers went into a gay bar on Saturday night and the patrons allegedly became fraught with horn and damn near raped our boys in blue.

City councilwoman Kathleen Hicks says she’s disturbed by the raid. She joins openly gay councilman Joel Burns in calling for an investigation into the raid that resulted in seven arrests and sent one man to the hospital with a critical brain injury.

District Attorney on King Case Dismisses Quest’s “Blame the Victim” Defense

Timothy Kincaid

May 9th, 2008

Lawrence King Karen Ocamb, writing for the Advocate, interviewed Senior Deputy District Attorney Maeve Fox about the murder of Lawrence King, a 15 boy shot by a classmate because he was gay. Although William Quest, the defense attorney for King’s killer, Brandon McInerney, has been telling the press that the blame should lie with King or with the school district, Fox isn’t buying it.

Fox declined to say if she thought Quest would mount a “gay panic defense” – saying that McInerney murdered King because the gay boy came on to him. However, Fox scoffed at any “blame the victim” defense as an “absolute failure to acknowledge personal responsibility.” Any “heat of passion” defense,” Fox said, requires an immediate, unforeseen reaction to an objectively overwhelming provocation and the absence of malice of forethought – the exact opposite of premeditation, which is what McInerney is charged with.

Fox further explained her thinking and why the DA wants to charge McInerney as an adult with premeditated murder with a special allegation of a hate crime.

“When you kill someone, to me you need to be incarcerated away from the public for a long time. Because to me, you’ve demonstrated that you’re dangerous. That’s why we have such lengthy sentences for murderers because you don’t want to just say, ‘Now don’t ever do that again!’ They’re dangerous people in most cases – unless it’s some extreme case where the person was under duress – in those cases we generally work out some kind of plea or arrangement. What I’m thinking of is battered women, people who kill under extreme circumstances.

“But if it’s a situation where it’s unprovoked and premeditated,” Fox continued, “then I would say in pretty much all of those cases, that public safety is a tremendous concern for me. And punishment is very high on my list of priorities. I’m very big on personal responsibility. And unless you can show me that you had a really, really, really good reason for doing what you did, I think you should stand up and be accountable for it. And you should be punished because otherwise we would live in pure chaos. These are the rules we’ve set up for each other and to me, it’s a very important part of this job.”