Connect with us

National

‘Gay panic’ defense in Miss. murder case

Details in dispute; group calls on Justice Dept. to investigate

Published

on

Marco McMillan, gay news, Washington Blade
Marco McMillan, gay news, Washington Blade

Marco McMillan (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

A county coroner in Mississippi disputed claims by family members of gay mayoral candidate Marco McMillian that McMillian was murdered on Feb. 26 by being beaten, burned and dragged naked along an earthen levee next to the Mississippi River near the City of Clarksdale.

The dispute between the family and Coahoma County coroner Scotty Meredith surfaced on Tuesday shortly after local TV news stations reported that Lawrence Reed, 22, the man charged with McMillian’s murder, told friends that he killed the mayoral candidate in self-defense after McMillian allegedly made sexual advances toward him.

Those claims created an immediate uproar among gay activists and McMillian’s friends and family members, who argued that Reed appeared to be invoking the so-called gay panic defense that has often been used by criminals who target gay men for violent attacks.

ABC 24 News of Clarksdale reported that Reed’s friends said Reed and McMillian met a few weeks before the murder at a Clarksdale bar and became friends. The friends told the TV news program they learned later that Reed, who says he’s straight, called his girlfriend immediately after he reportedly killed McMillian.

“She said she was listening to everything that was going on, how the guy was trying to get Lawrence to have a homosexual activity,” Derric Crump, one of Reed’s friends, said in an interview with the TV news program.

McMillian’s friends and family members dispute that account, saying McMillian would not do such a thing.

As developments in the case continued to unfold, the National Black Justice Coalition, an LGBT civil rights group based in Washington, D.C., announced on Tuesday that it has called on the U.S. Justice Department to investigate McMillian’s murder as a possible hate crime.

“After speaking extensively with the family, community and anti-violence coalition members like the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, NBJC feels the perpetuation and validation of the ‘gay panic’ defense is irresponsible,” NBJC Executive Director Sharon Lettman-Hicks said in a March 5 letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

“The conflicting reports as well as the current racial and anti-LGBT climate in Mississippi is justification enough for a federal investigation,” Lettman-Hicks said in her letter.

The dispute between the coroner and McMillian’s family members over the nature of the injuries suffered by McMillian came at a time when neither the coroner nor the Coahoma County Sheriff’s Office have disclosed the cause of death or the motive for the murder.

According to a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office, an autopsy was conducted but its results remain inconclusive until toxicology tests are completed. The coroner’s office has said the results of those tests wouldn’t be known until at least the end of the week if not later.

Meredith, the coroner, appeared to be the first public official to provide details about the nature of McMillian’s injuries when he spoke to the New York Times on Tuesday.

According to the Times, he said McMillian’s family apparently misinterpreted information he gave them a week earlier, prompting them to incorrectly disclose to the press and LGBT organizations that McMillian died from being brutally beaten, set on fire and dragged from the side of a road to the levee where his body was found on Feb. 27.

The Times reports Meredith as saying McMillian’s body was found unclothed, with a black eye and two small burns on his skin. Those injuries were not the cause of his death and the cause was still not confirmed pending the completion of the toxicology tests, he told the Times.

“There was no beating, although there may have been an altercation,” the Times quoted him as saying. “He got two little bitty burns.”

In a statement released on Tuesday prior to the publication of the New York Times story on the Times website, McMillian’s family members said the gay mayoral candidate was “brutally murdered.” He suffered severe injuries from being “beaten, dragged and burned (set afire),” the statement says.

“This was reported in our meeting with the local coroner on two occasions,” the statement says.

Meredith told the Times that burns the size of a half-dollar coin were found on McMillian’s hand and leg and that the cause of the burns were unknown.

“For this family, this was their child, whether he’s 34 years old or 3,” the Times quoted Meredith as saying. “They want to believe it was a hate crime. But we don’t have a hate crime.”

Lawrence Reed. (Photo courtesy Coahoma County Miss. Sheriff's Office)

Lawrence Reed. (Photo courtesy Coahoma County Miss. Sheriff’s Office)

The Sheriff’s Office spokesperson, Will Rooker, told the Blade investigators linked defendant Reed to the crime after he became involved in a head-on collision with a car while he was driving McMillian’s SUV on a highway on Feb. 26. McMillian wasn’t in the SUV, and the discovery that the vehicle belonged to McMillian prompted the Sheriff’s Office to launch an investigation into his whereabouts, Rooker said.

Reed was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Memphis, Tenn., which is the closest large city to Clarksdale, where he was treated and listed in stable condition. He appeared in a Memphis court on Monday and waived his right to fight extradition to Mississippi. He was being held without bond and was expected to be returned to Coahoma County, Miss., later this week.

The Jackson, Miss., Clarion-Ledger reported yet another wrinkle in the case on Monday. According to the newspaper, the driver of the vehicle struck by the SUV Reed was driving said friends of Reed told him Reed’s girlfriend called 911 to report that Reed confessed to her that he killed McMillian and stole McMillian’s SUV.

The 911 call was made before the traffic accident occurred, Chris Talley, the driver of the other vehicle, told the Clarion-Ledger. Talley told the Clarion-Ledger he spoke with family members of Reed’s girlfriend at the Sheriff’s Office when he went there to pick up his belongings that were left behind at the scene of the accident.

“They already knew that the vehicle was stolen when the sheriff’s deputies arrived (at the scene of the wreck), and they already knew it was a murder,” the Clarion-Ledger quoted Talley as saying.

McMillian’s friends and campaign supporters said he was considered a viable candidate to become the first openly gay elected official in Mississippi. He was one of four candidates running in the May 7 Democratic primary for mayor in the majority Democratic city of Clarksdale.

With no Republican running in the election, the winner of the primary was expected to easily win the general election on June 4.

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court declines to hear lawsuit against Montgomery County schools gender guidelines

4th Circuit last August dismissed parents’ case

Published

on

U.S. Supreme Court (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a lawsuit against Montgomery County Public Schools guidelines that allow schools to create plans in support of transgender or gender nonconfirming students without their parents’ knowledge or consent.

Three parents of students in the school district — none of whom have trans or gender nonconfirming children — filed the lawsuit. 

A judge on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last August dismissed the case. The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

Continue Reading

National

Bill to support LGBTQ seniors in rural areas reintroduced

Advocates praise Elder Pride Act

Published

on

(Washington Blade file photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), and Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) reintroduced legislation to increase access to needed services and resources for LGBTQ seniors who live in rural areas this week.

The Elder Pride Act would bolster the capacity and ability of Area Agencies on Aging located in rural communities to better serve and support LGBTQ seniors who often require affirming care, services, and supports that are often underfunded and scarce in many parts of the country.

Recent surveys show that between 2.9 million and 3.8 million LGBTQ people live in rural American communities.

“LGBTQ+ elders and older people living with HIV live in every part of this nation, including rural areas. We all deserve to be able to age in our communities with the services and supports we need to remain independent,” SAGE CEO Michael Adams said in the press release announcing the reintroduction of the legislation. “We commend Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Sharice Davids (D-KS) on reintroducing the Elder Pride Act. And we honor the contributions of our many LGBTQ+ trailblazers whose tireless advocacy allowed us to reintroduce this critical bill. We look forward to working alongside Reps. Bonamici, Pocan, and Davids, and our LGBTQ+ pioneers nationwide to pass this legislation.”

“LGBTQI+ seniors should be able to access services and care that meets their unique needs, regardless of where they live,” said Bonamici, chair of the Equality Caucus’s LGBTQ+ Aging Issues Task Force.”Those who live in rural areas frequently face increased barriers, which Congress can break down. The Elder Pride Act will increase resources for programs and services that will improve the lives of LGBTQI+ elders.”

“The Elder Pride Act will improve the overall health and social and economic well-being of LGBTQI+ older adults and seniors living with HIV in rural areas by better equipping senior service providers with resources to address the unique needs of these communities. I’m pleased to introduce this important legislation with my colleagues and co-leaders on the Equality Caucus, Reps. Pocan and Davids,” Bonamici added.

“Rural LGBTQI+ seniors have been lacking access to necessary services and care for too long,” said Pocan, co-chair of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus. “The Elder Pride Act creates opportunities for LGBTQ+ seniors in rural communities, benefiting everyone in the region. I look forward to advancing this important legislation.”

“Many of our LGBTQ+ elders fought tirelessly for equality in a world that refused to accept their identity,” said Davids. “While they overcame tremendous odds to give future generations the rights they deserve, our elders, particularly those in rural communities, continue to face discrimination when accessing long-term care and healthcare. I am proud to support the Elder Pride Act because who you are and who you love should never increase your risk for isolation, poverty, and poor health outcomes as you age.”

The Elder Pride Act complements the Older American Act, which was updated under Bonamici’s leadership, by establishing a rural grant program designed to fund care and services for LGBTQ seniors. The grant would also support programs that:

• Provide services such as cultural competency training for service providers;

• Develop modes of connection between LGBTQI+ older adults and local service providers and community organizations;

• Expand the use of nondiscrimination policies and community spaces for older adults who are members of the LGBTQI+ community or another protected class; and,

• Disseminate resources on sexual health and aging for senior service providers.

A fact sheet on the legislation can be found here, and the full text can be found here.

Continue Reading

State Department

State Department travel advisory warns of potential anti-LGBTQ violence

FBI issued similar warning this week

Published

on

(Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

The State Department on Friday issued a worldwide travel advisory that warns of potential violence against LGBTQ people and LGBTQ-specific events.

“Due to the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations, or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests, the Department of State advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution,” reads the advisory. “The Department of State is aware of the increased potential for foreign terrorist organization-inspired violence against LGBTQI+ persons and events and advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution.”  

The advisory further urges U.S. citizens to:

  • Stay alert in locations frequented by tourists, including Pride celebrations and venues frequented by LGBTQI+ persons.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive information and alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency overseas.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Homeland Security Investigations earlier this week issued a similar advisory.

The advisory notes June 12 will mark eight years since the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular