Austin, Tex. resident James Miller avoided charges of murder and manslaughter for the fatal stabbing of his neighbor, Daniel Spencer, using the gay panic defense in court this week. Instead, Miller was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide.
Miller testified that he and Spencer were playing music together and drinkingin Spencer’s home when Spencer allegedly made sexual advances on Miller. When Miller rejected those advances, he says Spencer became angry and aggressive.
At 5’ 4” and 69 years old, Miller said he thought Spencer (32 and a full eight inches taller) might hurt him, and therefore he acted in self-defense. Miller stabbed Spencer in the back, and Spencer later died.
Prosecutors pointed out that Miller didn’t have a scratch on him and argued that the notion that deadly force was used appropriately for self-defense was “ludicrous.”
The gay panic defense, which Miller invoked, is when a defendant argues that they were unusually violent only as a temporary reaction to unwanted sexual advances from a gay person. While the American Bar Association recommends that all states ban the gay panic defense, it’s officially only been banned in California and Illinois.
According to an academic study, the gay panic defense doesn’t often provide a full acquittal but has been successful in reducing charges and sentences.
The judge sentenced Miller to 10 years probation, 180 days in county jail, and 100 hours of community service. He will also be required to wear an alcohol monitoring device for a year and will have to pay the victim’s family $10,000 in restitution.
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