A man will not be facing murder or even a manslaughter conviction after his attorneys evoked a rare “gay panic” defense during his trial.
69-year-old James Miller of Austin, Texas was found guilty earlier this week of criminally negligent homicide for the 2015 death of his neighbor, 32-year-old Daniel Spencer.
Miller was sentenced on Wednesday (April 25) to 10 years probation and six months in jail. He’s also required to complete 100 hours of community service and pay $11,000 in restitution to Spencer’s family.
According to the Austin-American Statesman, In September 2015, Spencer invited Miller to his East Austin home to play music and drink. Miller testified in his trial that Spencer grew angry when he rejected his sexual advances.
After that, Miller says that Spencer moved toward him in a threatening manner, brandishing a glass. “We're musicians and all that kind of stuff, but I'm not a gay guy,” Miller told police, according to an affidavit presented by KXAN. “It seemed like everything was alright and everything was fine. When I got ready to go, it seemed like s**t just started happening.”
Muller says that he then stabbed Spencer twice and noted that he had a major size and age disadvantage, prompting the defense’s theory. That theory, often called “gay panic” or trans panic” is legal in 48 states. It allows a defendant to cite a victim's sexuality or gender identity as the justification for violent crime to obtain lesser charges or a reduced sentence.
Illinois and California are the two states to prohibit the defense. Perhaps this case will bring into question the validity of the legal precedent, seeing is how a jury found James Miller committing some form of wrongdoing.
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