The gay panic defense is one frequently invoked by murderers of gay men.

It goes like this: “He seemed like a nice guy, but then he brought up sex, so of course, I killed him.”  Defense attorneys have argued that a psychosis came over the target of an “unwanted” sexual advance and the murderer was thus unable to control his actions thereafter.

This argument has been used to excuse the killing of gay men in many trials in the US, despite there being no psychiatric evidence of any such thing existing. It simply appeals to jurors (and often to officers of the court) and unfortunately works in too many cases.

The good news that the American Bar Association is considering a ban on the “gay panic defense” is welcome, but it doesn’t do anything about all the killers let off the hook in the past.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013– The preliminary agenda (word document) for the ABA’s next meeting contains a resolution “urging governments to take legislative action to curtail the availability and effectiveness of the ‘gay panic’ and ‘trans panic’ defenses, which seek to partially or completely excuse crimes on the grounds that the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction.

An Australian paper does a good job of explaining the ludicrousness of this line of ‘reasoning’ here:

Any woman who has been hit on by a dogged, sex-starved meat axe, wolf whistling and perhaps even grabbing his lonely junk through his pants will recognise that – despite being propositioned by a clothed teratoma – the likelihood of finding empathy in the courts for blasting a hole between the culprit’s tightly grouped eyes is ZERO.

Women aren’t allowed to panic in the face of lackwits and male chauvinists.

More broadly, the connection of sex with murder in the gay panic defence, and in any provocation defence, sends out a number of awful messages to the community.

1. The appropriate response to unwanted but non-violent sexual attention is murder.

2. Gay men should stick to their own tribe and deserve to be assaulted for hitting on straight men.

3. Honour, and more specifically a man’s sense of total control over his sexuality, is more precious than life.

In the end, it all seems to boil down to the courts trying to find ways to forgive those in the cultural mainstream for crimes committed against those on the fringes.


What does this have to do with anything?

Two organizations — Indignación, Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos Humanos AC and Oasis de San Juan de Dios AC — are pursuing a complaint against the Attorney General of Yucatan for violating the privacy of Sam Woodruff and of diminishing his murder (and more like it involving Yucatecos) as one of those “understandable instances” of the entirely discredited “gay panic” defense.

In the case of Sam, his HIV status was disclosed by a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office. It was also stated that he was killed because he tried to force sex upon the confessed killer, repeating claims of a killer.

Think about that for a bit:  The officials in government using the claims of an admitted murderer to explain a death. Doesn’t that seem a bit backwards? Why would anyone believe a drug dealer (he was selling drugs when arrested) and murderer (some of Sam’s effects were found in his vehicle tying him to the crime, oh well, plus he confessed) as the source of the explanation?  Does that put you at ease?

Here’s the unvarnished truth for those who haven’t yet seen what has been going on, particularly in the last year or two:

Gay men, particularly foreigners, but also locals, are considered easy marks by criminals.  And there are any number of criminals intending to take advantage of those men in Merida today. This has increased markedly from the past.  The situation today is that foreigners, particularly gay men, should be reticent about inviting anyone to their home under any circumstances until they truly know a person and what they are all about.

Twenty years ago, if a person struck up a conversation with you and seemed like a decent chap, you’d have nothing to worry about, gay or straight or whatever.  Normally, it would simply have been a new friend and nothing bad would come of it.

Twenty years ago, the population of Merida was roughly half what it is today. And it was almost entirely Yucatecan. That’s not to say Yucatecans were uniformly one people, as they consisted — and do today — of an amazing mix of Maya, Spanish-descendents, Lebanese, and several other major European influences.  But, they were primarily long-term Yucatecans through-out the population. Neither is that to say that Yucatecans are 100% crime-free in and of themselves. They never have been.  Still, in a much smaller population and more closely related peoples, inhibitions to crime existed that are lessened today.

The growth which has doubled the population of the municipal area has come from natural population increase, moving people from the countryside into modern housing following Huracan Isadoro in 2002, and by large numbers of people moving from the rest of Mexico to Merida to avoid crime, the drug wars, and seek new opportunities.

Now, I’m one to raise an eyebrow whenever The Diario includes the almost obligatory line stating that any given criminal for any given crime is from another state, but the fact is that crime has risen since the influx of people from outside Yucatan. As already stated, Yucatecans never were completely crime-free themselves.

However, most high profile crimes committed in Merida over the last few years have been “outsiders” so there’s a bit of truth to the nearly always included line “from ______ (outside Yucatan).”

Whether due to displacing Yucatecans from jobs they would normally have, or bringing along criminal ways previously not practiced here, or a spreading influence of drugs, or simply that the larger city and unknown faces makes it seem like criminals have more of a chance of “getting away with it,” crime has risen.

Today, one of the things to consider is that the person who casually strikes up a conversation with anyone on the street may be sizing you up to worm his way into your home and steal a few pesos, or all you’ve got, including your life.

Did Sam try to force himself on the killer as the newspapers have claimed, repeating the prosecutors’ spokesperson’s claims, which are in fact the claims of the confessed killer?  No one who knew him would believe that.  Much more likely that this person had been there before, believed there was easy money to be had, and thought he’d simply grab some, resulting in a fight (Sam was not a weakling) and the subsequent stabbing and death.

And so we come to the Email which revived all this for me, for your own reading, consideration and translation:

Admite Juzgado Federal amparo contra INAIP por negarse a iniciar procedimiento de protección de datos personales

El  día 25 de julio de 2013, el Juzgado Primero de Distrito del estado de Yucatán admitió una demanda de amparo presentada por Oasis de San Juan de Dios e Indignación, ante la negativa del Consejo General del Instituto  Estatal de Acceso a la Información Pública del Estado de Yucatán de iniciar el procedimiento de sanción en contra de la Fiscalía General de Justicia del estado por la violación al derecho a la privacidad en perjuicio de Samuel Woodruff, su familia y la sociedad en general.  
El lunes 12 de noviembre de 2012, fue asesinado en Mérida el pintor estadounidense Samuel  Woodruff, en un hecho que, de acuerdo a la información que ha sido publicada, podría constituir un crimen de odio por homofobia. 
A raíz de este hecho,  la Fiscalía General del estado de Yucatán, en boca de su titular Celia Rivas, ventiló públicamente, en diversos medios de comunicación locales, datos relativos a la vida personal del C. Woodruff  al señalar, entre otras cosas que “los exámenes forenses y médicos arrojaron  que la victima dio positivo al VIH” además de afirmar que “la víctima era de tendencias homosexuales”, actitud que representa una violación a los derechos a la privacidad y a la confidencialidad,  pues se manejó públicamente, de manera dolosa  y en un tono discriminador,  la orientación sexual de la víctima, así como su condición de seropositividad, datos que no tendrían por qué ser del conocimiento público.
Ante esta situación, Oasis de San Juan de Dios e Indignación presentaron una queja ante el Consejo General del INAIP, pues la acción de la Fiscalía representa una violación a la obligación que tiene todas las autoridades y servidores públicos de garantizar la protección de los datos personales, definidos por la propia Ley de Acceso a la información Pública para el estado y los municipios de Yucatán, como toda información concerniente a una persona física o identificable; entre otra, la relativa a su origen racial o étnico, o que esté referida a sus características físicas, morales, emocionales, a su vida afectiva o familiar, domicilio, número telefónico, patrimonio, ideología política, religiosa, filosófica sindical, su estado de salud físico o mental, sus preferencias sexualesLa misma Ley califica a los datos personales como información confidencial.
A pesar de la evidencia de la violación de la Fiscalía a esta obligación de salvaguardar la confidencialidad de los datos personales de Samuel Woodruff, el Consejo General del INAIP, determinó archivar la queja, argumentando, entre otras cosas, que lo reclamado a la Fiscalía no se halla contemplada en alguna de las hipótesis  previstas en las infracciones leves y graves, establecidas en la ley de la materia…afirmando, en consecuencia, que la vigilancia de su cumplimiento no se encuentra en el campo de actuación del Instituto…
Hecho a todas luces falso, pues la propia Ley de Acceso a la Información Pública faculta al Consejo General de dicho Instituto a conocer este tipo de violaciones, pues el artículo 54 de la citada ley establece que son causas de responsabilidad administrativa de los servidores públicos el difundir los datos personales.  
En consecuencia, la resolución del INAIP, además de carecer de fundamentación y motivación representa un incumplimiento a su deber de hacer efectivo el derecho de protección de datos personales, mandato derivado, entre otros del artículo 6 constitucional, que en su párrafo primero y en la fracción I de su apartado A, establecen;   
Artículo 6o. La manifestación de las ideas no será objeto de ninguna inquisición judicial o administrativa, sino en el caso de que ataque a la moral, la vida privada o los derechos de terceros, provoque algún delito, o perturbe el orden público;  el derecho de réplica será ejercido en los términos  dispuestos por la ley. El derecho a la información será garantizado por el Estado.
Por lo tanto, la resolución del presente amparo puede sentar un precedente importante en materia de protección de datos personales en un estado que, como Yucatán, se caracteriza por la sistemática violación, por parte de la Fiscalía Especial,  a la confidencialidad de datos propios de la vida privada de las personas, hecho especialmente grave cuando se trata de crímenes de odio por homofobia o que involucran a personas que viven con VIH, pues la divulgación irresponsable de esta información contribuye al estigma que siguen manteniendo en contra de estos dos grupos sociales históricamente discriminados.
 Finalmente no deja de ser grave que el Instituto encargado de garantizar en un sentido amplio el acceso a la información, así como de establecer medidas y procedimientos para asegurar la privacidad y confidencialidad de los datos personales, reniegue de sus competencias y sea cómplice con ello del derecho que toda persona tiene a que sea respetada su vida privada.  
Indignación, Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos Humanos AC
Oasis de San Juan de Dios AC