A former police employee got away with murder after using the “gay panic” defense.
69-year-old James Miller from Texas is a retired civilian employee of the Austin Police Department.
After retiring, Miller spent of a lot of his time playing music. One of his past times was to meet up with his 32-year-old neighbor named David Spencer and play with him.
But one night in September 2015, Miller was shocked to find his neighbor and friend coming onto him. Apparently, Spencer closed in for a kiss, but Miller told him he wasn’t interested.
“We were playing back and forth and everything, and I just let him know — Hey, I’m not gay,” Miller, stated in an affidavit, according to Austin NBC-affiliate KXAN.
Things calmed down from there between the two before they suddenly escalated again. In James Miller’s account, Spencer came onto Miller again and Miller’s instinct was to pull out his knife and stab Spencer twice.
While in court, Miller says the he felt threatened by Spencer who was at least eight inches taller than him.
“He had height advantage over me, arm length over me, youth over me,” Miller said, according to the American-Statesman. “I felt he was going to hurt me.”
A few hours later, Miller showed up at a police station to turn himself in. He was then charged with murder, but he would later get his conviction lowered thanks to the “gay panic” defense.
After three years of court cases, Miller was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and not murder or manslaughter.
Because of this, he’s been sentenced to six months in jail and not prison. Plus, he has to carry around a portable alcohol monitor for the next year, be on probation for a year, complete 100 hours of community service, and pay $11,000 to Spencer’s family.
Despite Miller still being convicted of the murder, many are upset that his “gay panic” defense allowed him to lower his conviction.
The “gay panic” defense is legal in 48 states besides California and Illinois. Many see it as offensive due to the nature of the defense. It centers on the belief that the murder of gay people is somehow inherently justified.
D’Arcy Kemnitz, the executive director of the LGBT Bar Association, spoke to the Washington Post about the case and said:
“This is something from the very darkest of ages, based on the idea that if a gay guy hits on a straight guy, then the straight guy gets to do whatever he wants to do to him, including a homicide.”
She also added: “If there’s a secondary chilling effect, when an individual gets to attack or indeed murder someone and walk away with a slap on the wrist or scot-free, it tells us that we’re still vulnerable,” she said.
h/t: The Washington Post