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California
assembly approves limit on use of "gay panic"

A bill that
limits the use of the "gay panic" defense in criminal
trials has passed the California assembly. The bill,
authored by Democrat Sally Lieber of San Jose,
declares that it is against public policy for a
defendant to play upon the bias of the jury or for a jury to
allow bias against the victim to enter into its
decision-making. The bill further mandates a revised
jury instruction to ensure that a juror’s duty to
operate free from bias is clearly stated to each juror.
“This is a critical step forward in the
effort to rid our courtrooms of bias,” said
Lieber. “We must ensure that California’s
criminal justice system treats all victims equally.”
The bill was introduced in response to recent
cases in California in which murder defendants have
tried to lessen the charges against them by arguing
that they acted in a panic after discovering that the victim
was gay or transgender. The most prominent of these
cases was that of Gwen Araujo, a transgender teen from
Fremont, who was murdered by acquaintances when they
discovered she was biologically male.
“California has a powerful law that
enhances the penalties of criminals who commit hate
crimes,” said Geoffrey Kors, Equality
California executive director. “The
‘panic’ defense all but invalidates this
law by reducing sentences due to the hate the defendant
had for his or her victim.”
The assembly approved the measure by a vote of
45–32, with two members not voting and one
member absent. The bill now moves to the senate.
(Advocate.com)

Tags: World, World

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