Sunday, July 20, 2008

The "He Was Gay" Defense

There's something disturbing (on many different levels) going on in recent high-profile murder cases.

You could call it the "he was gay" defense.

That is, the defense team for an accused murderer (or murderess) suggests that the victim was gay, a closet queen, or had homosexual impulses, and that this was what led to their death. It wasn't their client who committed the murder; It must have been the proverbial gay stranger, someone they picked up, who stabbed them or bashed them to death. Why could it not have been a stranger of the opposite sex who did the deed? The implication seems to be that people who practice gay sex are somehow weirder, edgier, nastier than heterosexual people, it's that whole sick gay lifestyle. Men who have sex with other men are strange, perverted, somehow deserving of their brutal fate. Then there's the implication that closet cases are more likely than other gays to take chances with risky people.

Then there's the other side of the coin. Naturally the loved ones of the victim, as well as reporters and others, cry foul. Why, the victim isn't around to defend himself from "charges" of being gay. I find this even more obnoxious and perhaps even more homophobic. It's like being gay is the worst possible thing you can be.

The "he was gay" defense was used in two recent murder trails: the murder of Ted Ammon (pictured) at the hands of his ex-wife's lover, Danny Pelosi. And the trial of Nancy Kissel for the murder of her investment banker husband, Rob.

You've probably heard of these two cases. Nancy Kissel was the American woman in Hong Kong who poisoned her husband (who told her he wanted a divorce, thereby ending her cushy lifestyle) with a milkshake, and then left his body to decompose in a carpet. Smart, this woman was not. Her defense team made much of the fact that, according to computer experts, Rob spent several hours looking at gay porn and gay prostitute web sites not long before he died. While this doesn't necessarily make the man a closet queen (although it's certainly compelling) the defense introduced this material to make the jury feel that he was into sick, twisted things and this may have led to his death. However, they weren't able to come up with a suspect, a gay stranger or prostitute who may have poisoned him and put him in the carpet (and would he have had somebody like that come to his home? Hardly). Curiously, the toxicology report confirmed that Rob's body was full of the same prescription drugs that Nancy had recently received from doctors, all of whom would have made him sleepy and unable to defend himself from her attack.

In the case of Ammon, Danny Pelosi's defense team brought forth a man who claimed to have had sex with Ammon on the gay beach near his estate. Ammon supposedly called his girlfriend and told her he was walking near the beach and wasn't sure if it were gay or not. People have said that it was unlikely Ammon wouldn't have known about the beach's reputation. Would Ammon have mentioned that he was on this beach to his girlfriend if he was a closeted gay/bi, or was he afraid she would somehow find out about it and wanted a ready explanation? Was he testing the waters, trying to come out to her slowly and carefully?

On an episode of Dateline this past Friday (7/18/08) that went into the case, a man who had written about the murder trial for Vanity Fair was interviewed and poo poohed the idea that Ammon could have had an interest in men. "He certainly has had a long history of enjoying the company of women," he told Dateline. Which certainly doesn't mean that he didn't also enjoy the "company" of men. I still find it amazing that in this, the 21st century, there are people who don't seem to realize or recognize that many married men with children -- be they bisexuals or married homosexuals -- are fooling around with guys as well. (What made it stranger was that the Vanity Fair reporter, whatever his sexual orientation, was kind of "queeny." Does he think that because Ammon wasn't limp-wristed this means he can't possibly be gay?)

Both Ammon and Kissel may have been closeted gay/bi men, but this doesn't mean that contributed to their deaths, unless Nancy Kissel and Danny Pelosi found out about these interests and were homophobically repulsed, or felt they were deserving of death because they slept -- or wanted to sleep -- with men.

Many people have wondered what Ammon's wife Amarosa (who died of cancer) saw in Danny Pelosi, who I happen to think is one of the grossest, least attractive men on the planet. I mean, the man turns my stomach! Apparently she wanted to rub Ammon's face in the fact that she was sleeping, spending Ammon's money, with someone as dead-common and disgusting as Ammon was classy, handsome and successful.

Whether these two victims, Rob and Ted -- if they were gay -- would have ever accepted themselves and come out, we'll never know.

Their murderers took away that option forever.

Of course sometimes it's the prosecutors who use the "he's gay" bit to demonize a defendant. This happened in the case of a man who was accused of murdering his wife. She had supposedly fallen down a flight of stairs while drunk. Amazingly, this also happened to another woman in the guy's life a few years earlier. The defendant had contacted a male prostitute, who smirked in the witness box as he told of how they'd exchanged emails (but never met in the flesh). I wouldn't necessarily say it was homophobic of the prosecuting team to bring in the hustler, as sometimes married homosexuals do come to hate and resent their wives, but I've no doubt they were hoping the jury would have a negative reaction to his possible interest in men.

Just as I've no doubt that -- sadly -- many of the defendant's loved ones would think the "accusation" that he was gay was just as bad if not worse than his being accused of being a murderer.

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