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Texas man on probation after using ‘gay panic’ defense to explain neighbor’s murder

Written by gaytourism

The city of Austin, Texas, where James Miller killed his neighbor Daniel Spencer in 2015

An Austin, Texas man was found not guilty of manslaughter and murder by jury after killing his neighbor.

James Miller used the ‘gay panic’ defense in court to explain the murder of his neighbor, Daniel Spencer, who Miller claims made a pass at him in 2015.

Instead, Miller was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide and faces six months prison time and ten years probation. He must also complete 1,000 hours of community service, pay $11,000 [£7,982.59; €9,055.36] in restitution to Spencer’s family, and use an alcohol monitoring device for at least a year.

Miller’s defense attorney, Charles Bard, hoped that his client wouldn’t have to serve any time.

‘We were disappointed with the verdict yesterday, when he was convicted of criminally negligent homicide. We thought that he should have been acquitted on the basis of self-defense,’ Bard said.

Prosecutor Matthew Foye believes this verdict, which didn’t let Miller off on his self-defense claim, only reinforces what he set out to prove.

‘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 told 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.’

What happened?

In September 2015, Spencer invited Miller to his home in East Austin to drink and play music. According to Miller, Spencer had recently moved to Austin from Los Angeles. Miller claims that Spencer became upset when he rejected his sexual advances.

‘We’re musicians and all that kind of stuff, but I’m not a gay guy,’ Miller told police, according to an affidavit. ‘It seemed like everything was alright and everything was fine. When I got ready to go, it seemed like [expletive] just started happening.’

Miller, who is 69, then admitted to stabbing Spencer, who was 37 years younger than him, twice.

‘He had height advantage over me, arm length over me, youth over me,” he said. ‘I felt he was going to hurt me.’

‘Gay Panic’

Currently, 48 states still allow the so-called ‘gay panic’ defense to be used. This defense allows the prosecutor to claim their victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity as justification for a violent crime. It is often used to get a reduced sentence or lesser charges.

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