In a case reminiscent of the 1998 Laramie, Wyo., murder of Matthew Shepard, two young men were charged with beating a Crothersville, Ind., man to death and leaving him in a field to die because of a sexual proposition.
Although most of Perry's story primarily recounts the probable cause affidavit filed in the case by police, Perry does elicit a small tidbit from the Jackson Co. Prosecutor's Office. "Jackson County, Ind., chief deputy prosecutor Amy Marie Travis said her office was prohibited from talking about the case, but said that the investigation is ongoing." “If we hear of a rumor we check it out,” she said.
Perry interviewed the lead investigator in the Shepard case and spoke to other legal experts about the accused's use of a so-called "gay panic" defense, including at least one case where it was successfully used in Georgia, one of the few states in the company of Indiana with no hate crimes law. Perry writes:
The Shepard case, in which a the 21-year-old gay college student was savagely beaten, tied to a fence and left for dead by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, then 21, bears similarities to Hall’s case. The defendants in both attacks claim a sexual proposition made by the victim provoked them to violence.
Dave O’Malley was the lead investigator and commander of the detective division on the Shepard case. After leaving the Laramie Police Department he was elected vice mayor and is now a member at large of Laramie City Council.
In an interview with the Blade, O’Malley said motivation is all about the perceived sexual orientation of the victim.“It’s all based on the perpetrator’s perception,” said O’Malley. “It goes toward motivation, not whether they are gay or straight. It’s because they perceived the person to be gay.”
Attorney General of Atlanta Paul Howard said the so-called “gay panic defense” is a tactic some attorneys will use in connection with a justifiable homicide defense to sway the jury.
In Shepard’s case the judge refused to let gay panic be introduced and his killers were sentenced to life in prison, but such an outcome is not always guaranteed when the strategy is used.
Howard was Fulton district attorney in 2001 when Ahmed Dabarran, an assistant DA in his office, was slain in his Cobb County apartment. Dabarran’s accused killer, Roderiqus Reshad Reed, claimed he killed him to escape unwanted sexual advances and was acquitted. He predicts the defendants in the Hall case will offer a similar explanation.
“If you check around the country you will find that defendants offer the same lame defense and are acquitted. A reasonable person would say, ‘that’s not a defense.’ It plays on the prejudices of people on the jury. Some people believe if a gay man makes an advance they shouldn’t be treated the same way.”
He said the best way to counter a gay panic strategy is for courts to hold pre-trial hearings and exclude any mention of the term.