Monday, August 29, 2011

The Gay Panic Defense... Here We Go Again

As jurors begin their deliberations in the case of Brandon McInerney (photo left), a fourteen year old boy charged with first degree murder, my mind returns to the first case that introduced us all to the term gay panic defense.” For those unfamiliar with this case, a little background.

On February 12, 2008, fifteen year old Larry King was working in the computer lab of his middle school. At approximately 8:15 a.m. the defendant, classmate Brandon McInerney pulled out a 22 caliber revolver from his backpack and casually shot King in the back of the head. With the entire class looking on, McInerney calmly fired a second shot into his victim’s head, dropped the gun on the floor and walked out. He was picked up less than ten minutes later and just a few blocks from the school.

After numerous interviews and a thorough investigation it was revealed that McInerney had told one of King’s friends the day before, “say good-bye to Larry, ‘cause you’re never gonna see him again.” He also told several other people he was going to “shank” King. McInereney even attempted to recruit other classmates to kill King. It makes you wonder what King (photo right) could have possibly done to inspire such hate from his classmate. Well, wonder no more. His defense team laid it all out in their opening statement using what has sadly, become known as the gay panic defense. 

This insidious defense first came to prominence in the horrific murder of Matthew Shepard back in 1998. There, Matthew’s murderers claimed that he had “put the moves on them”, made come-ons and was flirting with them. This allegedly put them in such fear that they felt that they had to murder him. They asked a jury, through their attorneys, to excuse the brutal, fierce, inhumane beating they gave him before they tied him to a barbed wire fence and left him to die alone in a field. Why? All because Matthew supposedly made some unwanted sexual advances towards them. I find this offensive on so many levels, not the least of which is the obvious lack of correlation to the rest of the population. If an unwanted sexual advance or come-on was justification for murder, than the straight male population of this world would be cut by about two thirds. 

In the King case I take another exception. Gay Panic Defense? Doesn’t the very word panic infer that someone is out of control? That they are in immediate fear, they are experiencing an overwhelming terror? That’s not even close to what we have here. By all witness accounts there was no exchange, verbal or otherwise, between the two students that morning. There were threats indicative of planning and premeditation on the part of the defendant the day before. There were no allegations of physical touching by King. So what did cause this extreme reaction? This cold-blooded, calculating crime? 

Words. Yes, words. King had allegedly said to McInerney “I want you to be my valentine”. King was known to wear make-up and high heels to school, which is protected behavior under California’s anti-discrimination laws. There seems to be conflicting testimony as to whether King was sexually harassing other students by speaking to them like he did McInerney. The prosecution presented several witnesses that testified they never observed such behavior from King. The defense presented a teacher who said other students told her King “followed them into the bathroom.” Either way, there were no allegations of physical advances or touching. You can’t just shoot someone in the head twice because you don’t like what they say. 

Don’t get me wrong, I do feel some measure of sympathy for McInereny. He is, after all, a fourteen year old boy being tried in adult court. He is a boy with a troubled past. His mother had a criminal history and was addicted to methamphetamine. His father was a batterer who choked his wife almost unconscious after she accused him of stealing her eldest son’s ADHD medicine. This kid didn’t exactly have any role models. The police found white supremacist literature in his room. There are a whole host of reasons this kid turned out the way he did, but lets place the blame squarely where it lies and not on the victim. 

One of the problems with the gay panic defense is that, besides being patently offensive and not a legal justification, it vilifies an entire segment of the our population making them out to be freakish or abnormal. This is simply not acceptable, any more than it would be to victimize the mentally challenged, or people of other races or religions and then blame them for their own victimization, inferring that they were asking for it or deserved it. Boiled down to it’s simplest and ugliest terms it is nothing more than the “they’re different from me and I’m better” attitude. 

I understand the need the vigorously represent defendants in a court of law. I do. I get it. And this boy certainly needs defending, but to propound a defense that has no basis in law and is nothing more than a thinly disguised prejudice is irresponsible. 

This case is a tragedy on so many different levels. Two young lives have been ruined. One taken forever, another irreparably altered. 

As the jury continues to deliberate the fate of this young killer I am hopeful that while they will consider all of his issues they will flat out reject this blatant attempt to legalize prejudice.

photo: Angelina Cupcake


LCoastMom said...

Thank you for calling this what it is, an "insidious defense". While I have some sympathy for Brandon, as I am aware he had a horrible home life - being a victim of abuse does not absolve him of murder.

I am hoping the jury saw through the blame the victim mentality and finds Brendan guilty, he after all will still have a life both during and after prison, whatever he choses to make of it. He took that away from Larry King.

Cozy in Texas said...

Good post covering a touchy topic. Unfortunately, race and sexual behavior are bantered about so much that it's used equally by both prosecution and defense. If we all want to get along, we need to all be treated equally. Murder is murder no matter what the reason. I wonder why no one in authority noticed any of these problems building up.

Donna Pendergast said...

I prosecuted what was one of the first and one of the most notorious gay panic cases. Two aquaintances were on the Jenny Jones show for a taping of a segment on secret crushes. One guy professed a gay crush on the other guy. Several days later the "crushee' bought a shotgun and went to the house of his admirer. He blew him away then claimed that he "freaked out" because of the whole gay panic thing and because his manhood (for lack of a better term) was insulted. You are absolutely correct. As i told the jury it is a patently ofensive defense and NOT a legal justification.

A Voice of Sanity said...

Compare and Contrast.

These cases aren't about "gay panic". They're about men with inadequate sexuality.

If a straight woman approached a gay man, stripped naked and ... (rest clipped because you can't do this even in a low rent strip bar) who believes the gay man would feel compelled to hunt her down and kill her?

In all other possible combinations the 'panic' excuse would be laughably unbelievable. It should be here as well.

Anonymous said...

It's not so simple. In this case, Lawrence Fobes King harassed other boys in the bathroom and on 1 occasion Lawrence Fobes King masturbated in front of others. When complaints were made about Lawrence King's antisocial behavior, lesbian VP refused to expel him.

This case has been pleabargained. But if a gay is going to be antisocial such as commit indecent exposure, harass such as repeatedly proposition after the man said no, the gay is committing criminal harassment. If a gay pinches a man's butt or groin against will, then it's assault & battery.

If a man bashes or kills a gay after the gay did antisocial behaviors describe, jury decides if man's reaction was justified or excessive & if it's excessive then what degree.

Most gay bashings are men reacting or overreacting to crime the gay did. Is a man shooting and killing a gay after the gay exposed himself self-defense? It's hard to justify but if the gay is high on drugs or if gay has history of violence or if gay is high on drugs a case can be made that a man who kills a gay after a gay exposed himself protected himself from violence. These cases are unpredictable.

But again, Lawrence Fobes King whose mom was a crack junky didn't just ask him to be Valentine. Lawrence King exposed himself to others asked others for sex in bathroom and when complaints were made, he wasn't expelled. If a boy were to keep asking a girl for dates after she has told him no, if she complains to school, he'll be expelled.

Incidentally, I see something wrong with sex changes and believe that they must make it a crime to do sex changes-transexuality is another topic. The article written here is dishonest because Lawrence King was antisocial.

Anonymous said...

Something else to add & it's Matthew or Methew Wayne Shepard. Why he was killed only he and his killers know. But that aside, Matthew or Methew Wayne Shepard mistreated others and in the end he got killed by 2 people.

Methew Wayne Shepard was described by others including friends as moody, obnoxious and selfish. He chose University of Wyoming out of all the colleges then he put down the college and Laramie. In August 1998 he falsely accused a bartender of homosexual gang rape. & Methew Wayne Shepard was a drunkard junky who mixed Meth with antidepressants.

Yes, him being killed in October 1998 is another matter. But that doesn't change the truth that Methew Wayne Shepard mistreated others.

It's predictable Judy Shepard would side with Lawrence King. Yes, getting shot in head is excessive but I believe it's Manslaughter. Do the people who sympathize with Lawrence King, see something wrong with Lawrence King exposing himself to others, asking others for sex in bathroom (harassment) and school not expelling him when complaints are made?

Gay/lesbian activities often result of abuse. But Lawrence King had no right to expose himself-that's indecent exposure. If a man were exposing himself to women in a park, he'd be in jail. Gay panic defense is condemned but truth is that in these cases a man brings up crimes a gay did before he reacted violently and the jury decides if he reacted justly or excessively.

But with Internet, we'll put gay bashing victims to same scrutiny as gay bashers. To say that Lawrence Fobes King's conduct of harassing others in the bathroom and exposing himself is to be tolerated is wrong. Lawrence King was not killed because he asked some1 to be his Valentine as Ellen DeGeneres said. Lawrence Fobes King was shot and killed because lesbian VP Joy Epstein refused to expel him when complaints were made about his antisocial behavior.

Anonymous said...

Have yet something new to add. Main complaint that gay/lesbian groups have about 'gay panic' defense is that the straight man did not tolerate the abuse the gay did. In this case, 1 boy could no longer tolerate Lawrence Fobes King masturbating in front of others on 1 occasion and Lawrence King asking others for sex in bathroom among other things.

The view of these gay/lesbian groups including possibly some of the posters here is that if a homosexual pinches a man's butt against will or if a homo exposes himself, the man should just tolerate the crime gay is doing.

There are individual gays & lesbians who have defended gay panic defense on grounds that if a gay exposes himself, harasses a man or pinches a man's butt or will a man should have a right to use any reasonable or just force to end abuse.

But many gay/lesbian groups will side with the gay no matter what. Gay panic defense to repeat must be jury topic. If defense lawyer wants to raise antisocial or criminal behavior a gay did before man reacted violently then jury will have to decide if man reacted reasonably or excessively and if it's excessive then what degree such as Manslaughter rather than Murder 1 or Murder 2.

Gays have no right to commit indecent exposure and they have no right to repeatedly proposition after a man said no. If a man were to go around pinching women's boobs and butts against will, he should & would be in jail and a woman would have a right to use any reasonable force to end the assault&battery.

If a gay pinches a man's butt against will after which man punches gay in the face or even breaks the gay's hand(s), then it's reasonable force. If man shoots and kills a queer in that case, it'll be harder to justify but jury must decide as these cases can be unpredictable esp. if gay is high on drugs or has violent history. Many gays have drug junky problems such as Meth and drugs are gay.

Anyhow, a man must not tolerate a gay exposing himself as Lawrence King did, though shooting him in head twice was excess, it was Manslaughter.

Anonymous said...

Stephen Jimenez did a 13 year investigation & he reached his conclusions after interviewing them. Some of the witnesses are anonymous as some worked in law enforcement and some are criminals who chose to remain anonymous as they do not want to incriminate themselves, but there are also drug dealers such as Mark K. Rohrbacher who chose to identify themselves. Sometimes, investigations require testimony from criminals. Just because a person is a criminal, does not mean that they are not credible. Of course the witnesses who Stephen Jimenez are not likely to know everything about Methew W. Shepard, but there are things they saw which can not be dismissed.

Let’s look @ what we do know about Methew W. Shepard. No matter why the murder happened, the idea that A.J. McKinney and Methew W. Shepard were strangers who did not know eachother until that day is rubbish. There are many witnesses-Doc O’ Connor’s ex girlfriend, Elaine Baker (bartender), M.K. Rohrbacher (drug dealer), Tristan (Ted) Henson (Methew W. Shepard’s former lover) & others who saw them together. Even if 1 believes the murder was motivated by hatred of homosexuals, it is truth that A.J. McKinney and Methew W. Shepard knew eachother though A.J. McKinney denies it. There are too many witnesses who saw both men together. Of course the witnesses can only say they saw them together and can not know it all.

Methew W. Shepard associating with drug dealers in both Wyoming and Colorado is not disputable. Methew W. Shepard went into bars where drugs were sold and he did associate with drug dealers-we know that he went to bars named Tornado, Ranger, Library & other bars in Wyoming and Colorado where drugs were sold. Methew W. Shepard’s friend Tina LaBrie expressing concerns about Methew W. Shepard’s drug and $ problems. We know that Methew W. Shepard was having $ problems (spending so much on limosuine rides in Doc O’ Connor’s limousine). Methew W. Shepard’s a junky (proven fact), drunkard and had money problems. Sheriff O’Malley has said that if Methew W. Shepard sold drugs, the cops would have caught him which is which is dishonest-Sheriff David S. O’Malley and Sgt. R.J. DeBree know cops don’t always catch all the criminals and that many drug dealers escape detection. Sheriff David S. O’Malley and Sgt. Robert J. DeBree have arrested drug dealers and they know how it’s the family and friends who get surprised after they learn some1 they know is a drug dealer. Sheriff David S. O’Malley and Sgt. Robert J. DeBree know that it’s unlikely MW. Shepard told his friends and family that he was a drug dealer, and even if Methew W. Shepard did tell his friends and family that he sold drugs, don’t think his family will admit this ugly as they had tried to hide the fact that Methew Wayne Shepard molested 8 year old boys and got counseling. Now was Methew W. Shepard’s assocation with drug dealers and going into bars where drugs were sold more than buying drugs ? Was Methew W. Shepard a drug dealer or a drug courier? Stephen Jimenez thinks so and he believes it was the Denver circle.

Of course Stephen Jimenez does not know it all but his conclusions are sincere and honest. While homosexual groups complain about Stephen Jimenez saying the murder case is complicated and possibly not a hate crime, I think that is incidental-main reason homosexual groups are offended by Stephen Jimenez’s book is because he talked about the ugly truths about who M.W. Shepard was. You don’t always know the secrets friends and family have. If a person is a drug dealer, then they are usually not going to tell their friends and family that they do this. Even if Metthew W. Shepard did tell his friends and family that he sold drugs, don’t think his family will admit this ugly truth about him, as they had tried to hide the fact that Methew Wayne Shepard molested 8 year old boys and got counseling for it. Laramie Project, Shepard Foundation & Big Island Chronicle Tiffany Camille Hunt sees nothing wrong with Methew W. Shepard selling drugs and molesting children so their view is rubbish.