Man's 'Gay Panic' Defense Works

James Miller says he stabbed neighbor in self-defense
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 29, 2018 10:10 AM CDT
A man plays his guitar in this stock image.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – A former police employee skirted murder and manslaughter charges in Texas this week when a jury sided with his so-called "gay panic" defense, the Houston Chronicle reports. James Miller, 69, testified that in 2015 he was at the house of neighbor David Spencer, 32, drinking and jamming on their instruments when the younger man tried to kiss him. "We were playing back and forth and everything, and I just let him know—Hey, I'm not gay," Miller says in an affidavit, per KXAN. "Then it seemed like everything was all right, and everything was fine. When I got ready to go—it seemed like [expletive] just started happening." Miller apparently pulled a knife, stabbed Spencer twice, and showed up at a police station in the wee hours saying "I think I killed someone. ... I stabbed him."

In his defense, Miller said Spencer was bigger and stronger and might hurt him. Prosecutors argued that Spencer didn't threaten or injure his neighbor, but on Tuesday an Austin jury rejected murder charges and found Miller guilty of criminally negligent homicide, sentencing him to 6 months in jail with 100 hours of community service and $10,000 in fines. Now LGBT advocates are speaking up against "gay panic" defenses, which are legal in every state except California and Illinois. "It's hard to believe that something like this exists," the executive director of the LGBT Bar Association tells the Washington Post. "This is something from the very darkest of ages, based on the idea that if a gay guy hits on a straight guy, then the straight guy gets to do whatever he wants to do to him, including a homicide." (This story has been updated: We originally reported Miller was an ex-cop; he was a civilian employee of the Austin PD.)

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