Man Dodges Murder Charge By Using 'Gay Panic' Defense

James Miller will serve just six months in jail and spend a decade on probation after killing his neighbor. The defense cited "gay panic" as the reason for the attack.

James Miller will only serve six months in jail for killing his neighbor after his defense attorney used the controversial “gay panic” defense tactic.

Miller was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide in the death of Daniel Spencer. In addition to a light jail sentence, he will serve 10 years probation, complete 100 hours of community service, pay $11,000 in restitution to Spencer’s family, and use an alcohol monitoring device for at least one year.

Miller and Spencer were playing music together and drinking in Spencer’s East Austin home in September 2015. Miller claimed Spencer became angry when Miller rejected his sexual advances and came toward him with a glass. The defense argued Miller stabbed Spencer out of self-defense, but the jury didn’t buy that assertion as the prosecution noted blood evidence at the scene didn’t align with Miller’s story.

“He had height advantage over me, arm length over me, youth over me. I felt he was going to hurt me,” Miller said of Spencer, who was 37 years younger than him and 8 inches taller.

Prosecutor Matthew Foye said he was satisfied the jury did not let Miller off the hook for self-defense, though.

"It establishes that Daniel Spencer was a victim of a senseless killing by the defendant and he did not do anything to bring this upon himself," Foye said, according to local NBC affiliate KXAN. "Since the defense's strategy was to argue self-defense, I think the jury's verdict makes it clear that they did not believe it was self-defense."

Yet Miller avoided murder and manslaughter charges and prison time by invoking the gay panic defense.

While this tactic has been banned in Illinois and California, it is still widely used across the country for a defendant to excuse violence or assault of an LGBT individual due to that person’s sexual orientation or identity. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that citing fear or “panic” in association with a homosexual or trans person’s identity is clearly discriminatory.

“If there’s a secondary chilling effect, when an individual gets to attack or indeed murder someone and walk away with a slap on the wrist or scot-free, it tells us that we’re still vulnerable,” D’Arcy Kemnitz, the executive director of the LGBT Bar Association, told The Washington Post.

The gay panic strategy sends a clear message to LGBT individuals and other marginalized groups that if someone hurts them, they are essentially worthless in the eyes of the law.

Banner/Thumbnail Credit: Reuters

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