Saturday, July 29, 2006

Gwen Araujo

Gwen AraujoShould someone die for being different? Is it OK to kill someone because they aren't who you thought they were? Houston Voice: Gay Panic Defense. Some lawyers seem to think so.
Prosecutors said they want to limit the use of “gay panic” defenses — where defendants claim their crimes were justified because of fear or anger over their victims’ sexual orientation.
Some states are starting to do something about it.
California’s bill also would instruct juries that gay panic defenses are inconsistent with state laws protecting gays and transgender people from discrimination. It was prompted by the murder of 17-year-old Gwen Araujo, a transgender teenager who was beaten and strangled in 2002 after two men with whom she’d had anal sex learned she was biologically male.
I love this paragraph from a report on conference convened to discuss this "defense." (ebar.com | DA convenes 'panic' conference)
Attorneys and investigators who referred to transgender murder victim Gwen Araujo as "he" sometimes found themselves corrected by a roomful of strangers, and the rules of sexual intimacy sometimes took center stage during discussions of how to defend and honor a victim of violent crime who may also have been promiscuous or perceived to have made some dangerous decisions.
People make bad decisions all the time. They take chances they shouldn't. This does not absolve others of their responsibilities under the law - or under morality. (If I cut you off in traffic and you assault me, perhaps you can say I shouldn't have cut you off, but you are still guilty of assault and should be punished accordingly.) Would you want to live in a world where anyone considered to have "made bad choices," or was "expendable" for other reasons, could be killed with impunity? Think Nazi Germany, or Stalin's Russia. Think about the Hutu/Tutsi genocide. Remember Srebrenica.

The whole "gay panic" defense is another attempt, in a long line of legal attempts, to say that people are not responsible for their own actions. They panicked. They freaked-out. Circumstances conspired to rob them of their free will. The devil made them do it. Sorry, no. Unless you are legally insane, you are responsible for every one of your actions. You may not like that, but being an adult is a bitch.

And don't dismiss this as only a gay issue. Read what happened to Cindy Dixon (end of the post) and talk to me about justice. (Unless it is justice denied, you have an up-hill battle.) Some people's lives are worth life in prison without parole. Apparently - in the eyes of our legal system (or at least the lawyers) - other people's lives aren't worth that much. [Actually in fairness I should point out that 2 of the men who killed Gwen Araujo were convicted of Second Degree Murder, the third pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter.]

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