Ohio Executes Killer Who Attempted 'Gay Panic' Defense

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Robert Van Hook, 58, who choked and stabbed to death a gay man he met at a bar in 1985, was executed by lethal injection on Wednesday morning.

During his early trials, attorneys argued that Van Hook murdered Self as a result of a "homosexual panic," a discredited defense that claims unwanted sexual advances from gay or bisexual people can force straight people to commit violent acts, reports CBS News.

Authorities say Van Hook met his victim, 25-year-old David Self, in 1985 at the Subway Bar in downtown Cincinnati. After a couple of hours of socializing, the two returned to Self's apartment where Van Hook choked Self until he was unconscious, stabbed him multiple times in the neck, sliced his abdomen open, then stabbed his internal organs. He then stole Self's leather jacket and necklaces and fled, court records report.

Van Hook, his new attorneys argued, was suffering from the mental, physical, and sexual abuse he experienced as a child. Governor John Kasich was unmoved, denying him clemency without comment. Van Hook's advocates hoped that Kasich would give weight to the killer's past military service and consider how he was unable to receive care from Veterans Affairs for his mental health issues and addiction, even though he was honorably discharged. 

Van Hook's new lawyers also denounced the previous "homosexual panic" defense, instead referencing that their client has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder from childhood abuse. The Ohio Parole Board found that despite the trauma Van Hook experienced as a child, he was also given love and support by relatives for long periods and engaged in "gratuitous violence" in the killing.

Prosecutors stated that Van Hook made a practice of luring gay men back to their apartments to rob them and had an extensive history of violence while he was incarcerated. He stabbed a fellow death row inmate in November. 

During his execution, Van Hook wept and told Self's sister, brother, and brother-in-law, "I'm very sorry for taking your brother away from you." While waiting for the injection to take effect, he recited a poem and sang.

During an interview about a denied stay of execution request for Van Hook, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said he wants to bring back death by firing squad, telling reporters capital punishment "is not supposed to be a pleasant experience."

The family supported the execution. Last month they told the parole board Self is missed every day. His sister, Janet Self, particularly regretted that her brother had been reduced to "a gay man in a bar" when he was much more to her. 

Tags: Crime, Ohio

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