Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Slain Gay Professor’s Friends Denounce ‘Gay Panic Defense’ As Ploy

Prof. Don Belton, Michael Griffin

Bloomington, IN – Hundreds of Bloomington residents braved the cold to attend a vigil honoring the memory of IUB Prof. Don Belton Friday evening at the Monroe County Courthouse.  Friends, colleagues, students, and other citizens stood in silent tribute to the beloved teacher and author who was found dead from multiple stab wounds in his kitchen on December 27.  Speakers denounced the account being circulated in the media that Belton was murdered as retaliation for sexual assault, saying that such a tactic only enflames homophobia and racism, besmirching the reputation of the good and decent man Belton actually was.  A website, Justice for Don Belton, has been launched on the internet to refute the allegations of confessed murderer Michael Griffin, who told police after his arrest that he stabbed the professor to death at his Bloomington home with a military knife because Belton would not “apologize” for their sexual contact at a Christmas party.  The Probable Cause Affidavit may be read in its entirety here. Griffin, who is being held without bail, has pled not guilty to the charge of felony murder.  The creators of the website label Griffin’s confession as a version of the “gay panic defense” which is crassly deployed “to get charges reduced or to win over a jury when the victim was a gay person.”  The post goes on to say, “This is a tactic that has had some success over the years but is increasingly being recognized for what it is: a defense that plays to societal bias and prejudice and is not a justifiable excuse for murder.”  Supporters of Prof. Belton are calling on the Bloomington Police and the District Attorney “to reject any notion that Griffin’s claim of sexual assault weakens their case for murder.”  Another error the site combats is the media notion that Prof. Belton knew ex-Marine Griffin briefly, in a sort of sexually opportunistic way.  In fact, http://www.justicefordonbelton.com argues, Griffin was well-known by the IU English faculty, for whom he and his girlfriend cut grass and did other handyman jobs.  Griffin spoke on more than one occasion with Prof. Belton’s colleagues about how much he and his girlfriend liked the gifted teacher and about their growing friendship.  Griffin’s girlfriend made the call to police that led to her lover’s arrest for the murder.  Robb Stone, writing for the website, concludes, “Reporting or providing sound bites that ‘an incident occurred’ between the men on Christmas Day is not responsible journalism. Don is not here to tell his story. The media needs to be aware that how they report on this story is critical to ensuring that justice is done.  This is not the sensationalized story of a man who had a chance encounter with a random person. This is the story of a promising writer with many friends who was unfortunately betrayed by one of them.”

January 2, 2010 - Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, gay men, gay panic defense, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Indiana, Law and Order, Media Issues, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, stabbings, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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