There is an update to the tragic murder of Don Belton, the distinguished Black gay writer and beloved Indiana University professor who was brutally stabbed to death in December 2009. Michael J. Griffin, the 26-year-old former Marine who admits to killing the English professor, has plead not guilty and claims the slender, 53-year-old academic "sexually assaulted" him. Griffin's defense has requested a change of venue, citing "inflammatory publicity," reports the Bloomington Herald Times.
"'Because of community prejudice and bias against Mr. Griffin and the amount of prejudicial pretrial publicity,' [Paralegal Noah Williams] argued, saying the trial should not be held in Monroe County. He also said that in a community where so many people are connected to IU either as graduates or employees, potential jurors would be prejudiced against anyone charged with killing a college professor. And he claimed the public's view has been tainted by claims that race and homophobia may have played a part in the crime. ...
"Deputy prosecutor Bob Miller told Judge Teresa Harper there's no reason to move the trial elsewhere or to select jurors from another county to hear the evidence. And he said race and sex will be key elements during the trial. Harper took the request under advisement. She also postponed Griffin's trial, which had been set for the week before Christmas. The parties agreed to set aside two weeks for the trial, and a new date has not been set."
Griffin is charged with murder and is being held without bond.
The body of Don Belton was discovered on December 28, stabbed numerous times in the chest and abdomen. Griffin told investigators Belton sexually assaulted him twice on Christmas Day during a gathering with friends. Griffrin claimed he returned two days later seeking an "apology."
Last winter, it appeared that Griffin was building a "gay panic" defense. "Bloomington Police Lt. David Drake told ABCNews.com that police 'really don't know' if the incident on Christmas Day was consensual or not. ... Griffin told investigators he went to Belton's home to confront him about the two sexual encounters, which Griffin described as assaults. Drake ... declined to elaborate on the nature of the sexual acts."
Prior to arriving at IU Bloomington in fall 2008, Belton formerly taught at the University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania and lectured at the Sorbonne, among other places. Belton also wrote for Newsweek and The Advocate and edited Speak My Name, an critically-acclaimed anthology of essays on black masculinity.