The state of New York is set to ban the absurd ‘gay panic’ defences in murder cases.
Since the early 1960s, defense lawyers have used the idea that people accused of violent crimes against LGBTI people have acted in a state of insanity caused and justified by their victim being LGBTI.
The legal tact – typically known as ‘gay panic’ or ‘trans panic’ – while not always effective, has been incited by lawyers in recent years in a bid to win jury sympathy.
What’s set to happen in New York?
Today (19 June) New York lawmakers are anticipated to ban the practise. Making the state the seventh legislative to ban the defense and the fourth to do so this year, if approved.
Democrat assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell and State Senator Brad Hoylman – both gay men from Manhattan – proposed the measure.
They as well as LGBTI activists have argued that the defense embed discriminatory attitudes into law.
Moreover, on Monday, governor Andrew Cuomo, who pitched the bill as part of his executive budget, said in a radio interview that lawmakers in Albany had reached a deal on the bills.
Holyman attempted to introduce a similar measure back in 2014.
‘I’m glad that New York is sending a message to prosecutors, to defense attorneys, juries and judges that a victim’s LGBT identity can’t be weaponized,’ Mr. Hoylman said in an interview on Tuesday.
What is the ‘gay panic’ defense?
The panic defenses found their legal bases from 60s psychologists assertions that same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria were forms of mental illnesses, according to a 2016 study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.
Defense lawyers evoked such notions in countless court cases despite being discredited by medical professionals by the early 70s.
Furthermore, the most famous case in which the defense was enacted was the ‘Jenny Jones’ case. It saw Jonathan Schmitz tried for the first-degree murder of Scott Amedure.
However, he courts instead found him guilty of the lesser offense of second-degree murder as a result of the defense.
The two were on an episode of American TV talk show, Jenny Jones Show in 1996, which saw Amedure admit he had a crush on Schmitz.
The American Bar Association formally called on governments to end the use of panic defenses in 2013.
California was the first state to ban the defenses, in 2014. Illinois followed in 2017, and Rhode Island the year after.