Sunday, June 24, 2007

Blade: Brutal Indiana Killing Echoes Shepard Case

One of the nation's oldest and most respected GLBT newspapers, Washington Blade, takes up the hate crime killing of Crothersville's Aaron Hall. Likening it to the brutal killing of Matthew Shepard nearly 10 years ago, Elizabeth Perry writes:

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.


Anonymous said...

Has anyone other than myself wondered why John Hodge, the man who received the photo on his cell phone, not had any charges pressed on him?
Here's my 2 cents. This crime was more likely than not drug related. Say Hall made a bad deal with these folks. Hodge had been screwed by Hall and knew what his boys were going to do. They send him the message to prove to him that they are taking care of business.
Meanwhile, whatever John Hodge was to gain by all of this went sour. So in turn, he turns his buddies in via the cell phone picture.
Now it would also seem that one of the local boys was in with Hodge as well, maybe also got left out of the final cut, but protected Hodge as a snitch.
Now Hodge shows up with some mighty damning evidence, so the boys must act quickly. Get a search warrant and go find a body.
Oops, we haven't had the time to move it from the coronor's garage yet. Haven't had time to make a plan yet or come up with a story. Let's just try to keep this hush hush.
Now any day we will hear some kind of lame excuse as to why these things happened bla bla bla. It surely can't go on much longer.
May not be what really happened but sounds logical to me. More here than what it appears on the surface jmho.

Lynn David said...

You all are daft. THe perception in King's mind was that Hall was not gay but that Hall was overlording himself on King and questioning King's sexuality. King killed (if his story has any real meaning) to show his own masculinity, not because he perceived that Hall was gay.

I'll say it again, Hall was as much a homophobic bigot as King in that room.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Lynn and anon 10:32, you seem to know so much about what happen and your stories contradict the accused's story. Were you there that night? Do you have information you are withholding from police? I think it's time to put up or shut up. If you have knowledge there were others involved in the crime or any other information, identify yourself and tell the police your stories.

Lynn David said...

I only know what I have read here on AI, on TV websites, Bilerico and Bloomington Alternative. And well, that seems to be all that you know too, and all that the Washington Blade or any other national rag knows also.... is there something you know that hasn't been reported?

There have been times that I have been in the presence of a bunch of drunk straight guys wno know each other and one might have questioned the sexuality of another. The reaction of the one whose sexuality which was questioned was at times to lash out. Straight guys do that rather often especially in their younger years as a putdown. But it doesn't mean a damn thing about the questioner being gay. It speaks to the homophobia of the entire group of guys.

The perception of being gay was towards the sexuality of King, not Hall who was brutally beaten and killed. The panic, yes if that was the real motive, was that of King's concerning that perception of his sexuality; but while Hall was the instigator he was not perceived as gay. So are we now going to say a gay-hate crime exists when the one perceived as gay kills the other person? Well, maybe that's democracy.

Evoking a "gay panic" defense (if that is the motive) doesn't necesssarily make this case a hate crime. It makes it reprehensible if that homophobic reaction is not the motive.

Lynn David said...

Let me ask you something too, Gary. Do all of us gay people have to walk in lockstep over each issue? Some are clear and then we do agree, some - and I think this is one such - are not so clear.

I don't berate gay republibcans, I sort of hold some of them with a certain respect. I'm there with them on some economic issues. When 9/11 occurred, I got on the wagon about Afghanistan; I was getting on the thinking about Iraq until I unravelled my emotions and got down to cold logic about it and decided Iraq was all wrong (a bridge too far so to speak).

So why do we have to come to the same conclusions from the same evidence as concerns the Hall murder? Yep, there are brutal elements which mirror the Matthew Shepard case. But it is my life experience which tells me that this crime has nothing to do with the perception that Hall was gay. Ergo it was not a hate crime, even though it might be a case of homophobia. As I have said, if that be the real motive. If it is not the real motive, evoking a "gay panic" defense after the fact makes that false report to the police a hate crime, it doesn't make Halls murder such.

That's simply my logic concerning it. But if you're able to build upon this and create a hubbub in the state house concerning hate crimes from it, more power to you. As I have said before it might be karmic justice that the death of a homophobe would trigger a hate crime law in Indiana. But if you get egg in your face over it, don't blame me or anyone else who through our life experiences and logic cannot come to call this a hate crime....

Gary R. Welsh said...

Lynn, it's one thing to argue whether it's a hate crime. It's quite another to attribute facts to the case that are not currently in evidence. The only evidence we have comes from the three eyewitness account and the friend who heard what was happening contemporaneously with the killing via cell phone calls and text messages. Their assertion is that they perceived Hall as being gay, not the other way around as you claim. You and others have claimed to know this as a fact. I only know what is currently in evidence, and what you claim happened is mere speculation by folks who weren't there. Others have speculated that other people were present when the killing took place. Other people say drugs were involved. If you have information supporting those contentions, then share it with the police. Don't use these hearsay comments to portray the crime differently than what has been told to police.

Lynn David said...

AI said: The only evidence we have comes from the three eyewitness account and the friend who heard what was happening contemporaneously with the killing via cell phone calls and text messages. Their assertion is that they perceived Hall as being gay, not the other way around as you claim.

Nowhere have I seen in any account that overtly said anyone perceived Hall to be gay. The closest to it might be that reported in the Bloomington Alternative: "About 15 minutes later, Hendricks called Hodge from the scene. The Times reported that Hendricks shouted: "They're beatin' the hell out of that guy." Hodge told police he could hear screaming and yelling in the background and thought he heard Hall yelling, "Bitches." "

Hall yelled, "Bitches?" Seems like Hall is questioning the sexuality of others. Prove me wrong.... honestly please, I'll jump on your bandwagon. Where is this evidence that they perceived Hall to be gay?

The initial reaction of Hall's brother that it was a hate crime did not seem to hold water either at the time I read it, with what information which has been released. But I believe it was you who first characterized their "defense" as the "gay panic" defense. That did not exactly fit in my estimation, except that King was in panic about the perception of his own sexuality.

All I know is from everything I have read on this crime, that my perception has not changed on it. And I think that our differences are a matter of our perceptions.

Gary R. Welsh said...

You reach a completely different conclusion than the Hall family. Thomas Hall specifically told the press the men were claiming Hall was gay after he was briefed by police about their statements.

Anonymous said...

No I do not know what happened.
I should not have posted that based upon speculation. I promise not to post accusations such as those again.

Lynn David said...

AI wrote...

"You reach a completely different conclusion than the Hall family. Thomas Hall specifically told the press the men were claiming Hall was gay after he was briefed by police about their statements."

Yep.... and if you go back and look at your two entries concerning that:
--- AND ---

And read the news reports and what Thomas Hall said, "It was a brutal crime against my brother and I feel this is a hate crime." Yet nothing overtly says it is a hate crime. Thomas Hall feels it is so. And later on this is juxtaposed in the article.

The suspects told police Hall grabbed Coleman King and questioned his sexuality. That set off the deadly beating.

"And they're saying what's why they killed him. Because he was gay. And he wasn't gay," said Thomas Hall.

Hall is jumping to a conclusion - a wrong conclusion. Aaron Hall questioned King's sexuality... and it doesn't mention anything in the court records, you wrote about them:

Gray, who turned himself in to police Sunday, and King admitted to police that they beat Hall after Hall grabbed King's crotch and made comments questioning King's sexuality, according to court records.

Those comments came as Hall, Gray, King and Hendricks drank beer and whiskey at Gray's home on the afternoon of April 12, police said.

...King said he and Hendricks drove Gray's truck to Crothersville to buy alcohol and they picked up Hall on their way back to Gray's house. ...King said everyone began drinking beer and whiskey, according to records.

After Hall's comments to King, both King and Gray admitted hitting Hall and dragging him out of the house to Gray's truck, police said.

Gray also told police he had hit Hall at least a dozen times and that King had struck Hall about 75 times, with his hands and boots.

That is your evidence for a "hate crime" and like I say, it does not in my opinion hold water. There was no perception of Hall as gay. It was because one homophobic man questioned the sexuality of another homophobic man. But should karma exist....

Anonymous said...

I can't believe what I've read here. Cry Wolf had the guts to stand up and say - hey, maybe the police are helping to cover this up. Maybe, Hodge (who certainly should have been charged with something) is being protected. And you, Gary, ask if possibly this poster is withholding information from who - the police? Hello?!
I think that cry wolf's take on this makes more sense than anyone else's has so far. The post does not indicate to me that this poster was present during this tragedy, but, rather that this poster knows the area.
Wolf, although drugs never seem to have anything to do with murders in that area, don't apologize for insinuating that it's possible that they just might.
Maybe you should read the post again, Gary, but this time realize that there have been 3 murders and one unexplained death in that area in the last two years. Also remember Denise Travers article concerning this case in which she comments on the fact that something seems wrong in the area. People are afraid to talk to her and seem to be afraid of the very people that are supposed to be protecting them.

Anonymous said...

Here is a site called The Aaron Hall project. It has a lot of media contact info:

Anonymous said...

Yes, that suspicious death would be Carrie Jackson. Remember her? Of course not. That death was ruled a drug overdose. No arrests have been made, even though Ms. Jackson was found in a field in Jackson County several days after having last been seen. No one had reported her missing.
Aaron's brother in law, Dean Jackson was found dead near Crothersville only a month prior to Aaron's death. Deano Jackson was also a brother in law to Carrie.
Now we learn from the Alternative, that prior to the discovery of Aaron Hall's body a local police officer, Darryl Hickman searched the Gray home. He told Hall's mother that he did not notice any blood stains in the house, although 13 stains were later lifted from various locations in the home.
Funny how things like this go unnoticed in Jackson County.

Anonymous said...

Do any of you who have posted live in this area? I do, and seems that may be there is much more to this than has been mentioned. Supposedly there are others that these boys have beaten and left laying on the road. Supposedly it is a game they like to play. They come into town, find someone who they know they can lure out by telling them they are partying and they are buying, they get them drunk, they beat them and dump them. Now I say supposedly because I have seen nothing official on this. Did anyone ever think the Hodge boy knew what these boys were capable of and he was afraid for his own life? I don't know this for sure either, I am only theorizing. The two Jackson cases are in no way similar to the Hall case and the Jacksons were not from Crothersville. Dean Jackson's body was dumped NEAR Crothersville, most likely because it would take longer to find where it was dumped.Again, I am speculating. There are a couple things I do know. These boys did not believe Hall was gay, when I saw that in the paper I couldn't believe it was even insinuated. Who ever said that it was Hall that questioned King's sexuality was right, but the beating had nothing to do with that comment, the beating was (speculating again) already planned. The comment made it worse and it went too far. Another thing I know, Tommy Hall is a drunk, I haven't seen him sober since the day he returned to Crothersville when his brother was killed, I don't remember him being sober before he moved from town. It seems to be something that runs in the family. Tommy's comment made in the media was not made sober. He was drunk at the funeral and he was made to leave a hearing because he was drunk. Another thing I know, the Gray boy has been living in his dad's house alone for several years. Long before he was old enough to be living alone. How do I know this. I live very close to where his dad does live and he has lived there a long time. One more thing. Terry Gray, the coroner, the Gray boys dad, was a spokesman for the family of Katie Collman, he spoke many times on tv about the murderer of Katie Collman and said that there is no excuse and that he felt that the death penalty should be given to Anthony Stockleman. He said that any person who could commit a brutal murder should not live. Now that it is his son, he goes on tv and says, they are young boys who made a mistake?? A mistake that killed someone? Now I know that Aaron was no angel and Aaron did many things wrong, but did he deserve to be beaten and dumped in a field to die, then have his killers go back and take his clothing and leave him naked? Now, to the point, was it a hate crime, YES, if they were not full of hate they could not have pulled off such a brutal crime.