VOTE: Should the ‘gay panic’ murder defense be banned?
Have you ever been hit on by a member of the same sex and reacted in a violent manner?
If that is the case and it resulted in your killing that person, a New Jersey lawmaker is seeking to ban the defense that you acted out of a 'gay panic.’
It sounds stupid to claim that; however as it stands now, if you’ve committed the crime in the heat of passion resulting from a “reasonable provocation” – you’d be charged with manslaughter.
Assemblyman Tim Eustace, who’s one of two openly gay assemblymen, seeks to ban that defense, saying that the provocation can not be considered reasonable if:
“the discovery of, knowledge about, or potential disclosure of the homicide victim’s actual or perceived gender identity or expression,” including “circumstances in which the victim made an unwanted, non-forcible romantic or sexual advance toward the actor, or if the victim and actor dated or had a romantic or sexual relationship.”
As I read it, this would up the penalties from manslaughter if you kill someone of the same sex out of your “panic” if they hit on you.
While we’ve never had a case arise here in New Jersey where this would have been an issue – there’d been a couple of cases of this nature that had arisen in California – one involved the murder of a 15 year old who was shot by a 14 year old who was humiliated by the advances of the older kid.
The case ended in a mistrial, but the defendant eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter with a firearm.
The bill is being supported by the American Bar Association at the urging of the National LGBT Bar Association.
However, it appears to be a solution in search of a problem; and one prominent defense attorney argues that juries are smart enough to differentiate between a reasonable, valid fear - and a bogus defense - which this appears to be.