New York Officially Bans ‘Gay & Trans Panic Defense’ In Homicide Cases
On June 19, New York state lawmakers passed a ban on the use of the gay and trans panic defense in homicide cases. Specifically, the legislation will prevent criminal defendants from justifying murder as a response to discovering a victim’s gender identity or sexual orientation.
Historically, criminal defendants have, in some circumstances, been successful in arguing that they committed a violent crime because they felt a “extreme emotional disturbance” upon finding out the victim’s gender and or sexual orientation; and some have had those crimes downgraded to manslaughter with reduced sentences as a result. In fact, according to a 2016 study conducted by the Williams Institute, gay and transgender panic defenses have been used in half of all states over the last 60 years.
The History of the Defense in New York
New York had its own high-profile case in 2013, when a man fatally attacked a transgender woman; claiming that he “went into a fury” upon finding out that she was transgender. Even though he was charged with homicide, he was only sentenced to 12 years in prison due to his use of the defense.
The current ban was enacted not only in response to high-profile cases like this, but also do to the increase in hate crimes committed against LGBTQ individuals, in general: According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 50 hate-related homicides were committed against LGBTQ individuals in 2017 alone; the highest to date. In enacting the ban, New York joins a number of other states that have already banned the use of the defense, including California, Illinois, Nevada, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
What Does the Bill Do, Exactly?
The legislation states that “any non-violent sexual advance or the discovery of someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation” does not constitute a “reasonable explanation or excuse” with respect to using extreme emotional disturbance as an affirmative defense to the charge of second degree murder. A number of advocates pointed out that the excuse was used as a legal tactic to bolster other defenses as opposed to being a free-standing defense, and sent the message that LGBTQ lives “are worth less than others.”
Contact Our New York Criminal Defense Attorneys with Any Questions
Other LGBTQ legislation that passed in New York earlier this year includes the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, which adds gender identity to the state’s hate crime laws, as well as being covered by anti-discrimination laws.
If you have been accused of a violent crime in New York, contact our experienced New York criminal defense attorneys at the office of Phillip J. Murphy today to find out how we can help. Our attorneys serve clients in New York City, as well as Orange, Rockland, Westchester County