Murder of Ever Orozco For Allegedly Blowing Kisses At Another Man Raises Fears Of "Gay Panic" Defense At Trial
The murder of a Queens, N.Y., family man by a day laborer who told cops that the older man “blew kisses” at him has led to renewed calls to ban the so-called “gay panic” defense in trials for murder and other violent crimes.
Steven Torres, 22, repeatedly stabbed 69-year-old Ever Orozco in broad daylight on September 16 underneath the elevated tracks of the 7 train at 90th Street in Queens. A native of Colombia, Orozco was a retired mechanic who had been married to his second wife for 15 years.
While Orozco’s stepson said he had “no homosexual tendencies” and his wife declared that “he loved women,” the attack raise the fear among activists and at least one NewYork City Council member that Torres (pictured) would attempt to sway a jury with the claim that he exploded in uncontrollable rage when the older man came on to him.
Last month, the American Bar Association passed a resolution urging state and local governments, and the federal government to ban the “gay panic” defense. California passed a law to that effect in 2006 following an earlier case in which a 17-year-old transgendered woman was beaten to death by two men who, after having sex with her, learned that she used to be a man.
“Sometimes even the juries are infected with this idea that gay panic defense is OK,” council member Daniel Dromm told the online magazine Salon, “that a heterosexual man in particular needs to protect himself from the advances of a gay male.”
Dromm said he has been told that Torres’ defense lawyers do not intend to use the “gay panic” defense.
Yale law professor Dan Kahan told Salon that defenses based on the emotional response of the perpetrator to the victim are not unprecedented and change over time based on what society considers acceptable.
At one point, he said, it was not considered acceptable for a woman to kill a man who was abusing her. But the abuse defense has become more common in recent years. Similarly, it was once considered okay for a man to murder another man for having sex with his wife. But “the stock of the cuckold has kind of been falling,” he said.
Dromm says that he is working on a city council resolution to possibly call on the state legislature to ban the “gay panic” defense in New York state.
SOURCES: Salon, San Francisco Chronicle, New York Daily News
In today’s era of increasing recognition of gay rights, it seems hard to believe that rage after learning a person was homosexual can be considered a legitimate defense for murder. Finally, the American Bar Association is moving to make the so-called “gay panic” defense a thing of the past.
In 2006, California passed a law requiring that juries be instructed not to consider the sexual orientation or gender identification of either the victim or defendant in a capital murder case. The law stemmed from the 2002 slaying of 17-year-old Gwen Araujo, a transgendered woman who was beaten and strangled to death by two men who became outraged when, after having sex with her, they learned she had formerly been male.
After one trial ended in a hung jury, the two were convicted of second-degree murder in a new trial.
A 2004 case in Fresno involving a man who murdered his date after learning she had previously been a man, and dozens of similar cases around the nation, led to calls that the “gay panic” defense be put to rest once and for all.
The ABA passed a resolution this week urging all state and local governments, as well as the federal government, to adopt laws banning the defense tactic.
D’Arcy Kemnitz (pictured), executive director of the National LGBT Bar Association told the ABA House of Delegates that the defense is a “surprisingly long-lived artifact” from an era when hatred toward gays, lesbians and transgendered people was thought of as socially acceptable.
Kemnitz commended the ABA vote, saying it makes clear that “legal professionals find no validity in these sham defenses mounted by those who seek to perpetuate discrimination and stereotypes as an excuse for violence.”
SOURCES: San Francisco Chronicle, American Bar Association Journal