It’s 2018 and people are still successfully using the ‘gay panic’ defence
One of the most controversial legal defences has been used successfully once again.
On Thursday, a 69-year-old man was convicted of criminally negligent homicide after stabbing his neighbour to death in 2015.
James Miller will serve 10 years probation after the death of his neighbour Daniel Spencer, in addition to six months in prison.
According to NBC, friends Spencer and Miller were together in Austin, Texas, when Spencer made a sexual advance on him.
“Hold it, I’m not a gay person,” Miller reportedly replied.
Spencer allegedly became aggressive after Miller rejected his advances, brandishing a glass at Miller.
The defence argued that Miller acted in self-defence.
However, the prosecution argued that Miller did not have “so much as a scratch on him.”
Miller reportedly told the jury: “He had height advantage over me, arm length over me, youth over me. I felt he was going to hurt me.”
Miller then stabbed Spencer before turning himself into the authorities.
In addition to the 10 years on probation, Judge Brad Urrutia added the maximum judge-imposed sentence of six months imprisonment as well as 100 hours of community service and $11,000 in restitution to Spencer’s family.
Prosecutor Matthew Foye said that the verdict showed that the self-defence claim was not successful in acquitting Miller.
Foye said: “It establishes that Daniel Spencer was a victim of a senseless killing by the defendant and he did not do anything to bring this upon himself.
“Since the defence’s strategy was to argue self-defence, I think the jury’s verdict makes it clear that they did not believe it was self-defence.”
Miller’s representative Charlie Baird said he was disappointed with the decision to convict him of criminally negligent homicide.
“We thought that he should have been acquitted on the basis of self-defence,” Baird told NBC, before adding that he was glad Miller would not have an extended prison sentence.
Baird said: “The jury, they agreed with us and thought that Mr. Miller was no threat to the community or to society at large, and, therefore, they decided to place him on community supervision.”
Many are reporting that this case is a prime example of the so-called “gay panic” defence in action.
This legal defence means that assailants who attack gay men after seeing homosexual behaviour may argue in court that they could not reasonably control their actions.
It relies on a largely discredited medical idea that many men will have a natural, biological response of rage when witnessing gay behaviour, which will make their actions uncontrollable.
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Monica Harrell, a chairperson for Equal Rights Washington, explained: “[The defence] is saying you’re surprised that somebody might be different than you, whatever that difference is, and that that would allow you to initiate violence, and in some cases, lethal violence. That should never be a defence.”
As of 2018, only two states have currently outlawed the ‘gay panic’ defence – Illinois and California.
These laws also prohibit the ‘trans panic’ defence, which has been used by men who discover that their sexual partner is not a cisgender woman.
But LGBT rights advocates are aiming to repeat their triumph in Illinois in half a dozen states during 2018, according to the Associated Press.