There are new developments in the shocking murder of Don Belton, the gifted black gay writer and beloved Indiana University professor who was brutally stabbed to death over the holidays. Michael J. Griffin, the 25-year-old former Marine who admits to killing the English professor, has plead not guilty and is being held without bond. And the mainstream news media is beginning to explore Griffin's claim that the slender, 53-year-old academic "sexually assaulted" the decorated Marine who was less than half his age.
CBS News.com explores the likely defense and asks: "Did "Gay Panic" Lead Ex-Marine Michael Griffin to Kill Professor Don Belton?"
The former military man told police that Belton, who was openly gay, sexually assaulted him in front of his girlfriend, while they were both intoxicated on Christmas Day. And because the assistant professor of English refused to "show remorse," Griffin stabbed him to death, according to court documents. Despite his alleged confession, Griffin has pleaded not guilty to the killing. And though his defense strategy is not yet clear, others with similar cases have pursued a "gay panic" defense, hoping to persuade juries that they were rendered temporarily insane by the perceived romantic or sexual advances of the victim.
In the case of Matthew Shepard, the gay 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming who was tortured and murdered in 1998, his attackers originally used the gay panic defense, arguing that they were driven to temporary insanity by his alleged sexual advances. Both attackers were given life sentences. One of the highest-profile cases to make use of the defense was that of Jonathan Schmitz, who killed his friend Scott Amedure after a taping of the The Jenny Jones Show where he learned that Amedure was sexually attracted to him. Schmitz was convicted of second degree murder and was sentenced to 25 to 50 years.
ABC News also reports the gay panic angle: "Bloomington Police Lt. David Drake told ABCNews.com today that police 'really don't know' if the incident on Christmas Day was consensual or not. Once in police custody, Griffin waived his rights and told investigators, according to the probable cause affidavit, that he went to Belton's home on Sunday to confront him about the two sexual encounters, which Griffin described as assaults. Drake said the sexual incidents allegedly occurred at Griffin's home on Christmas Day during a gathering with friends. He declined to elaborate on the nature of the sexual acts."
The gay panic defense has been deployed to various degrees of success in many cases reported on Rod 2.0. Most recently, 19-year-old Robert Hannah was sentenced to only 180 days behind bars for the brutal September 2008 beating death of Tony Randolph Hunter. Hannah claimed the black gay Maryland man grabbed his crotch and butt when the two men crossed paths on a Washington D.C. street. And in New York City, Steven Pomie was eventually sentenced to nine years for the brutal gay-bashing of Dwan Prince that left him partially paralyzed. Pomie claims that Prince flirted with him and blew a kiss at him.