Los Angeles, CA – A new study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law on instances where gay and/or trans panic defenses have been used indicates that, in many cases, defendants in those cases where neither surprised nor panicked to learn their victims were transgender. In fact, the study shows, such cases often involve robbery or a pre-existing relationship between victim and defendant. Gay and trans panic defensed first began appearing in court cases in the 1960s, according to a press release on the study, and continue to be used today, and in some cases, those defendants either receive unacceptably light sentences or are exonerated completely. Research from last year by W. Carsten Andresen, associate professor at St. Edwards University, found that the gay and trans panic defenses were used at least 104 times across 35 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico between 1970 and 2020.Twelve states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation eliminating the use of gay and trans panic defenses, but the defenses remain available in most states.
In a 2018 Texas case, James Miller of Austin was convicted of stabbing his neighbor, Daniel Spencer to death. But Miller was sentenced to only 10 years’ probation, six months jail time, 100 hours of community service and almost $11,000 in restitution to Spencer’s family after telling the court he killed his neighbor because Spencer made a pass at him. Transgender women are frequently attacked by men who get angry because the woman they are sexually attracted to is transgender.
The new Williams Institute study examines current research on violence against LGBTQ people in the U.S. and the use of the gay and trans panic defenses over the last six decades. The study also provides model language that states may use to ban the gay and trans panic defenses through legislation to address “disproportionate exposure to violence, including interpersonal violence, for LGBTQ people.” Christy Mallory, legal director at the Williams Institute and lead author of the study, said, “In many cases where the gay and trans panic defenses have been raised, we see that the victim and the defendant had a relationship prior to the homicide or the homicide occurred in the course of robbery. These findings suggest that defendants were not surprised or in a state of panic when the homicides occurred.” (Dallas Voice – Tammye Nash at https://dallasvoice.com/study-highlights-fault-in-trans-gay-panic-defense/)
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