The Gay Panic Defense

Topics: Homosexuality, Sexual orientation, LGBT Pages: 11 (4271 words) Published: November 22, 2013


The Gay Panic Defense
Lit Review

I. Introduction
On September 30th, 1997 Stephen Bright met Kenneth Brewer in a gay bar where the two shared drinks and chatted until they left to go back to Brewer’s condominium. As Bright was having another drink in Brewer’s bedroom, Brewer entered the room completely naked with an erection saying he wanted to “f___” Bright. At that point Brewer grabbed Bright by the throat and crotch, which is when Bright started to attack Brewer. After finding out later that Brewer had died, Bright claimed the murder was in self-defense, and he was “in a state of panic” because he thought Brewer was going to rape him (Lee, 2008). Another case, Schick v. State, a seventeen-year-old boy had hitched a ride with the victim after his car had broken down. The two the began driving around in search of women when the young boy asked, “Where can I get a blow job?” To this the victim replied, “I can handle that” (Dressler, 1995). After stopping at a baseball field, the two men traveled into the shadows where the victim pulled down his pants and underwear, proceeded to grab Schick’s waist, and grasp his penis. In response Schick kneed the victim in the stomach, hit him in the face, and stomped on the man, which eventually killed him (Dressler, 1995). During his trial the seventeen-year-old argued the victim’s homosexual advance provoked him into losing his self-control, at which point he panicked and killed him (Mison, 1992). In both of these cases the men claimed to have killed their victims out of panic because of the homosexual advance they made upon them. Also in both cases, the defendants were not charged with murder, and had their sentencings lessened by the jury. Bright was originally charged with second-degree murder, but was found guilty of third-degree assault (Lee, 2008). Schick was originally charged with murder, and was only found guilty of voluntary manslaughter (Mison, 1992). This leads into the question which is one of the main premises for this paper: Is the Gay Panic Defense a legitimate argument, and should it be used in court rooms?

While it is not officially recognized, the “gay panic” defense refers to defense tactics that rely on the concept that a defendant should be excused or justified for their violent actions because they acted in response to a homosexual advance (Lee, 2008). Very similar to the gay panic defense is the homosexual advance defense, which is basically where the victim focuses a homosexual advance at the defendant, the defendant acts violently in response, and then kills the victim (Chen, 2000). Both of these defenses mostly involve a non-violent advance, and then the defendant reacts violently out of fear. The gay panic defense is a mix of two ideas, which is the legal theory of provocation, and an ill-defined clinical idea labeled homosexual panic (Wall, 2000). Homosexual panic defense can also be presented in court in three different ways, which will be talked about later in this paper.

In order to find the information needed for this paper, I was able to use a few different search engines and databases. Through the library’s system, I was able to use JSTOR and SocINDEX via EBSCOhost to find many articles relating to this topic of gay panic. In the databases, I used the following terms in order to find relevant articles on my paper such as gay panic, homosexual panic, homosexual advance, provocation defense, homosexual murder, and a few other terms similar to those. From that point I read the abstracts, and if possible a few pages from the articles to see if they would be sufficient to use for this paper. I also was able to use Google Scholar to find a few good articles, where I searched the same terms in order to discover them. In total, through use of the computer databases, I was able to find thirteen relevant articles to the gay panic defense. Also, with the help of Dr. Smyth, I was able to obtain three...

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Smyth, M. (2006). Queers and provocateurs: hegemony, ideology, and the homosexual advance defense. Law & Society Review, 40(4), 903-930. Retrieved November 20, 2012, from the JSTOR database.
Suffredini, K. (2001). Pride and prejudice: the homosexual panic defense. Boston College Third World Law Journal, 21(2), 279-314. Retrieved November 24, 2012, from the Google Scholar database.
Tilleman, M. (2010). Transforming the provocation defense. Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 100(4), 1665-1668. Retrieved November 21, 2012, from the SocINDEX database.
Tomsen, S. (2002). Homosexual panic and the mercenary killing. Hatred, murder and male honour: anti-homosexual homicides in New South Wales, 1980-2000 (pp. 56-91). Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology.
Wall, B. (2000). Criminal responsibility, diminished capacity, and the gay panic defense. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 28(4), 454-459. Retrieved November 20, 2012, from the SocINDEX database.
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