A Look at the Gay/Trans Panic Defense

Gay and trans “panic” defenses attempt to prove that a homicide was caused by a temporary loss of sanity or implied threat that impelled the defendant to murder. In so doing, second-degree and first-degree murder charges can be reduced to criminally negligent homicides, voluntary manslaughter, and other crimes that are not punished as seriously as murder.

Gay Panic and Trans Panic: How is the Defense Used?

According to the LGBT Bar, the gay/trans panic defense can be used in different ways.

The defendant can claim he was temporarily driven insane by the thought of another person of the same sex or a transgender person propositioning them. In response to this proposition, they murder the person. This is an example of an insanity or diminished capacity defense.

In other cases, the defendant claims that they were provoked to rage by the proposition and this led them to lose control of their actions.

Lastly, the gay/trans panic defense can be used to argue self-defense. The defendant becomes convinced that the victim is going to physically harm them so they lash out, killing the victim.

Each year, a number of defendants are acquitted using this defense. As of now, only three states, California, Rhode Island, and Illinois have outlawed gay panic defenses in court.

Should Gay and Trans Panic Remain a Viable Defense?

The term panic generally refers to a psychological condition that is driven by fear, shock, horror, and many other emotions. While some people freeze up when they experience panic, others lash out.

A recent case in which a gay panic defense was successfully used involved a retired Austin police officer, James Miller, who wanted to put a jazz band together. He and another man, David Spencer, were jamming. According to Miller, Miller informed Spencer that he was not gay. When Spencer moved in for a kiss, he stabbed him twice. He showed up at the police station later to report the crime.

Miller was charged with murder. His defense was simply that he was defending himself from Spencer. He was acquitted.

Let’s take a look at this from a different perspective. Let’s say Miller’s first name was Sarah. Sarah Miller is hanging out with her friend David and they are playing music together. Sarah tells David that she is not interested in a romantic relationship but David moves in for a kiss. Sarah stabs David twice and then reports the murder to the police.

While it’s very likely that Sarah would not be convicted of second-degree murder, it is also very likely that she would see the inside of a prison for voluntary manslaughter. In Miller’s case, he was charged with criminally negligent homicide, sentenced to 6 months in jail, forced to pay Spencer’s family $11,000, and use a portable alcohol monitor for a year.

Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney

The Skier Law Firm P.A. represents those who have been charged with crimes in West Palm Beach. If you’ve been charged with a crime, give us a call or talk to us online to set up an appointment.

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