There are new developments in the investigation of last week's murder of Marco McMillian, the 34-year-old fundraising executive who was running for mayor of Clarksdale, Mississippi. McMillian was gay. Twenty-two-year-old Lawrence Reed has been charged with McMillian's murder.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has announced that it is "monitoring" the case—but "has not indicated that it has opened its own investigation," reports the Associated Press. This after a request by Rep. Bennie Thompson who was responding to family members who McMillian's death investigated as a hate crime. "Thompson, whose daughter attended college with McMillian, said he had known the victim for years," added the AP.
"The FBI is aware of the case, has been monitoring the state investigation, and will assess evidence to determine whether federal prosecution is appropriate," FBI spokeswoman Deborah Madden said Wednesday in a statement. She said the FBI has been following the investigation since March 1, shortly after learning of the circumstances surrounding McMillian's death.
The FBI could determine whether to file a federal hate crime charge, which covers acts motivated by bias against sexual orientation. Mississippi's state law against hate crimes covers acts motivated by race, but not sexual orientation. The Coahoma County Sheriff's Office has been the lead agency in the investigation with assistance from the MBI, said Mississippi Department Public of Safety spokesman Warren Strain.
Rep. Thompson's statement can be read HERE.
McMillian's family initially insisted that his sexuality was a not factor in his death. The family now claims that McMillian was beaten, tortured and burned and believe it was a hate crime. The Coahama County coroner has disputed those reports, notes the Clarion-Ledger.
The accounts are based on photographs the family saw, as well as two conversations the family says it had with the coroner.Coahoma County Coroner Scotty Meredith said only that McMillian wasn’t dragged behind a vehicle but rather his body was dragged from the vehicle to the spot where it was dumped.
McMillian's body was discovered near a Mississippi River levee on February 27. Murder charges were filed against Lawrence Reed the next day. Police investigators and several of the suspects' friends have said the suspect is claiming a "gay panic" defense.
Lawrence Reed made his first court appearance this week in Memphis, Tennessee. The suspect will be extradited to neighboring Mississippi, reports Memphis WMC-5 and Biloxi WLOX 24.
Lawrence Reed told Shelby County Judge Louis Montesi he was not going to challenge his extradition back to Coahoma County, Mississippi where he faces murder charges. Reed told the judge that he did not have an attorney. He will now go back to Coahoma County to face murder charges. Coahoma County authorities have not told Action News 5 exactly when Lawrence Reed will be taken back to Mississippi to face those murder charges.
Civil rights groups are outraged that Reed could claim a "gay panic" defense. National Black Justice Coalition Executive Director Sharon Lettman-Hicks described it as "irresponsible" in a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder.
NBJC feels the perpetuation and validation of the “gay panic”defense is irresponsible. The conflicting reports as well as the current racial and anti-LGBT climate in Mississippi is justification enough for a federal investigation.
Just last month, when an openly gay couple, Dr. Ravi Perry and Prince Paris, were invited to speak at a
Mississippi Historically Black College and University, local pastors rallied and protested the lecture. The public
outcry resulted in the institution scaling down the visibility of the event and distancing itself.
JET featured the wedding of Dr. Ravi Perry and Paris Prince in its December 10 2012 issue.
The details of McMillian's cause of death remain unclear but "sexuality could have everything to do with his murder," Mississippi State University's Dr. Ravi Perry, friend and political adviser to McMillian, writes at the Huffington Post.
The reality is, Marco's sexuality could have everything to do with his murder. Rumors abound now that Marco allegedly 'hit on' his alleged killer. The speculation goes that the reaction -- resulting in Marco's strangulation and murder -- is being labeled a crime of "passion." It's been framed in local media reports as a "personal" crime, according to police. The framing of his murder as "personal" and a crime of "passion" is an affront to all who have labored for civil rights since the beginning of time.
Recent data show that anti-gay and racist crimes have soared in Mississippi but two-thirds of its counties have "failed" to file any reports with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department, according to November 2011 FBI report detailed at Rod 2.0. "Local activists expressed concerns that the numbers may be twice as high than what is officially on record due to underreporting and fear of retaliation," adds the NBJC.
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