“Gay Panic” Defense Successful Invoked in Texas, LGBT Bar NY Pushes for a Ban in NYS

There was national outrage at the report that a Texas jury had apparently accepted a “gay panic” defense from James Miller, who admitted that he murdered his gay neighbor, Daniel Spencer, but claimed it was “self-defense” because the man had “come on” to him. Miller killed Spencer in 2015 by stabbing him twice in the back.

He claimed that Spencer “came on” to him, then was angered at being turned down. Although there was no physical altercation, Miller’s lawyers successfully argued that he felt in danger because at age 66 he was older and shorter than his 32-year-old victim.

The jury issued a sentence of ten years’ probation, so Miller faces no prison time for the murder, instead spending six months in a local jail. He lives in East Austin. So far, only two states have statutes banning the use of the gay panic defense — California and Illinois — although proposals to do away with it are pending in other state legislatures.

In 2013, the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates passed a resolution condemning the use of “gay panic” and “trans panic” defenses in criminal litigation. people.com (April 30).

The LGBT Bar of NY is urging the NYS legislature to pass a bill sponsored by Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell and Senator Brad Hoylman that would ban these defenses in NYS.

This item appears in LGBT Law Notes, a publication of the LGBT Bar of NY. This item was written by Art Leonard.

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