Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Big Sentence For Galveston Hate Crime Attacker

Galveston, TX – Alejandro Sam Gray,18, (pictured at left), wasn’t expecting a 20 year sentence for chunking a 4 lb. hunk of concrete into a gay man’s head at a gay bar, but the judge had other ideas this past Friday.  According to the Galveston County Daily News, 212th District Court Judge Susan Criss, said: “It has been suggested that the actions by (Gray) were done because of his youth, because of his immaturity and because he was following the wrong crowd, and I am not buying any of that. He made a decision to commit a crime of violence and a crime of hate.”  Gray pled guilty to assault with a deadly weapon, and to a hate crime enhancement charge, since he and accomplices chose a gay bar for their violence-spree on Sunday, May 1, 2009.  Along with two brothers, Lawrence Henry Lewis III (20), Lawrneil Henry Lewis (18), Gray, 17 at the time of the attack, swung the door of Robert’s Lafitte Lounge, a landmark gay bar on Galveston Island for years, heaving rocks and jagged pieces of concrete block being used as door stops at patrons.  One struck Marc Bosaw in the back of the head, leaving a gash in his scalp that required twelve staples to close.  James Nickelsen was also wounded and treated at the scene.  The three youths ran away after the assault, but police apprehended them within 10 blocks of the bar.  All three were arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon, and placed under $120,000 bond.  The hate crime enhancement came later when it was determined that they had deliberately intended to terrorize gay men.  Texas passed a state hate crimes law including a provision to protect gays and lesbians back in 2001, but the James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Act has been invoked so infrequently in the Lone Star State that it has been all but ineffective.  As Equality Texas noted in 2009, though more than 1,800 hate crimes occurred in Texas during a nine-year period from 2001 to 2009, only 9 cases in the state were prosecuted under the provisions of the law.  Hunter Jackson, a University of Texas journalism intern and hate crime survivor opined, “With the recent passage of the Federal Hate Crimes Bill, more pressure will likely be on Texas prosecutors to obtain hate crime rulings, since the bill gives the federal government power to intervene when states are not upholding the provisions of their own hate crime statutes.”  That was the case in Galveston this past week.  Judge Criss handed down a stiff penalty for anti-gay hate.  Gray’s accomplice, Lawrence Henry Lewis III, had struck a plea deal back in January and was sentenced to 5 years in prison.  The Galveston County District Attorney had asked the same for Gray, and most expected the same sentence.  Gray’s lawyer argued for deferred adjudication for his client.  Some are calling the sentence excessive.  Philip Lipnick, a youth counselor and director of Galveston Youth Creating Their Own Future, had testified on Gray’s behalf at the trial, and told the Daily News, “More harm than good will be done by this.  (Gray) has never had a criminal record before this. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I don’t know what kind of message the judge is trying to send.”  Sounds to us at the Unfinished Lives Project that the judge’s message to Gray and to Texas couldn’t be clearer.  The other Lewis brother is to be tried in April.

March 29, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Bludgeoning, gay men, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard Act, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Big Sentence For Galveston Hate Crime Attacker

Phoenix Transperson’s Murder Still Unsolved After Four Years

Phoenix, AZ – Maurice Dupree Green, known by friends in a gay support group as Melissa, was 22 when she was fatally shot in the back on the night of March 21, 2006.  Now, four years since the brutal shooting, Green’s murderer remains at large with no promising leads.  A candlelight vigil marking the anniversary of Green’s death was held Sunday in Phoenix, according to reports from ABC 15.  When interviewed by a reporter for ABC, Arizona TransAlliance Co-Chair Erica Keppler said that Green’s murder highlighted the fear trans youth and adults face every day in the Grand Canyon State: “I want to move through the world as a citizen and feel safe like anybody else does, but I can never know that I’m safe,” she said.  “I can never know that when I walk through a parking lot that I could be at risk of violence, of someone attacking me.”  Green was in transition from male to female.  According to a report filed near the date of her shooting, Melissa Green was wearing a long brown wig and women’s clothing as she walked alone in the neighborhood of an adult bookstore she sometimes frequented.  AZCentral.com reported that a man approached her from behind and fired a single shot into her back with no warning just after midnight.  She bled to death on the sidewalk before paramedics could reach her.  Police were originally reluctant to label Green’s murder a hate crime, but members of the Arizona trans community, local politicians like openly gay Phoenix City Councilman Tom Simplot, and her youth support group friends have no doubt that hatred of LGBT people motivated the shooter.  Simplot, who donated a considerable sum of money back in 2006 to reward anyone identifying the killer, comes to honor Green every year, and believes the annual vigil is important for youth in metro Phoenix.  “This vigil every year is to tell our youth that the community does care about them, that we care what happens to them when they get kicked out of the house just for being gay,” Simplot said to ABC 15.  Since the murder, Green’s mother Ceda has been inconsolable.  She spoke to reporters at a previous vigil, confessing that her life could never be the same after the death of her child.  Each year, vigil supporters hope that renewed interest in Green and the trans youth of Arizona will prompt someone to come forward with information leading to an arrest.  Until then, the tenacious citizens of Phoenix will remember Melissa Green’s untimely, violent death, and work to improve the lot of the living.

March 23, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Arizona, gay men, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Phoenix Transperson’s Murder Still Unsolved After Four Years

Archbishop Tutu: “I would never worship a homophobic God”

Washington, DC – Desmond Tutu, emeritus Archbishop of Cape Town, issued a strong protest against African politicians and clerics who are persecuting LGBT people throughout the African continent.  In a powerfully worded editorial published in Friday’s Washington Post, the Nobel Peace Prize winner denounced anti-gay laws and policies in Uganda, Malawi, Rwanda, Burundi, Senegal, and Kenya.  Since perpetrators of anti-LGBT violence use Christian rhetoric and scripture in support of their crimes against gays and lesbians, The Unfinished Lives Project quotes at length here from the text of the editorial in order to begin to redress the perception that God, Christ, and the Church are in solidarity against LGBT people.  It is our hope that religious leaders of conscience throughout the world will join Archbishop Tutu in undercutting religious and spiritual bigotry wherever it arises. The Archbishop writes: Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people are part of so many families. They are part of the human family. They are part of God’s family. And of course they are part of the African family. But a wave of hate is spreading across my beloved continent. People are again being denied their fundamental rights and freedoms. Men have been falsely charged and imprisoned in Senegal, and health services for these men and their community have suffered. In Malawi, men have been jailed and humiliated for expressing their partnerships with other men. Just this month, mobs in Mtwapa Township, Kenya, attacked men they suspected of being gay. Kenyan religious leaders, I am ashamed to say, threatened an HIV clinic there for providing counseling services to all members of that community, because the clerics wanted gay men excluded.

“Uganda’s parliament is debating legislation that would make homosexuality punishable by life imprisonment, and more discriminatory legislation has been debated in Rwanda and Burundi.

“These are terrible backward steps for human rights in Africa.

“Our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters across Africa are living in fear.

“And they are living in hiding — away from care, away from the protection the state should offer to every citizen and away from health care in the AIDS era, when all of us, especially Africans, need access to essential HIV services. That this pandering to intolerance is being done by politicians looking for scapegoats for their failures is not surprising. But it is a great wrong. An even larger offense is that it is being done in the name of God. Show me where Christ said ‘Love thy fellow man, except for the gay ones.’ Gay people, too, are made in my God’s image. I would never worship a homophobic God.”

The Archbishop leaves no room for misunderstanding: “Hate,” he writes, “has no place in the house of God.” We at Unfinished Lives could not agree with him more.

March 16, 2010 Posted by | "Kill the Gays Bill", Africa, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, gay men, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Politics, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Archbishop Tutu: “I would never worship a homophobic God”

Bill Obstructing Federal Protections for LGBT Oklahomans Passes OK Senate

OK State Senator Steve Russell (R-OK City)

Oklahoma City, OK – A controversial bill limiting what law enforcement may do to investigate and prosecute hate crimes against LGBT residents of Oklahoma passed the State Senate this Thursday.  The bill, SB 1965, passed the upper house 39 – 6, and now goes on to the Oklahoma State House of Representatives.  According to the OUDaily, SB 1965 would prohibit local and state law enforcement agencies from sharing information about hate crimes with federal authorities if the state of Oklahoma did not recognize the crime as a hate crime by its own statutes, thereby effectively opting out of federal protections for LGBT persons in the Sooner State.  John Wright of the Dallas Voice writes that the originator of the legislation, State Senator Steve Russell (R-Oklahoma City) proposed the bill because he contends that the James Byrd, Jr. and Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, passed by both houses of Congress last year and signed into law by President Obama, oversteps the bounds of what the federal government may do and abrogates freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  Russell, who equates sexual orientation with necrophilia, said to the press that he was concerned that a religious leader could be blamed for inciting violence against LGBT people and charged with a hate crime under the provisions of the Shepard Act.  The attachment of the Shepard Act to a Defense Appropriations Bill also upset Russell, who once served as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army.  The Oklahoma LGBT community was swift to condemn the passage of the State Senate Bill, and drew attention to the dire consequences of the enactment of the provisions of the bill into law.  The Equality Network (TEN) issued a statement Thursday from President Kathy L. Williams: “Senator Russell’s bill is truly terrifying in its implications. This legislation sends the message that violence against LGBT Oklahomans is acceptable. It also sets a chilling precedent that Oklahoma will only enforce certain federal laws and cooperate only with selected federal agencies. We believe this unconstitutional and blatantly discriminatory bill will harm all Oklahomans, regardless of their identity and regardless of whether they are victims of hate crimes.” The Metro Star reports that the only thing standing in the way of this legislation becoming law will be refusal in the House or a veto by Governor Brad Henry.  The State House of 101 representatives is controlled by the Republican Party, 61 to 40.  Governor Henry is a Democrat.

March 13, 2010 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, gay men, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, Matthew Shepard Act, Oklahoma, Politics, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Judge Puts Off Murder Trial of Gay Puerto Rican Teen’s Confessed Killer

San Juan, Puerto Rico – In a controversial move, a Puerto Rican judge has postponed the murder trial of Juan José Martínez Matos (pictured at left) who confessed to the grisly decapitation, dismemberment, and immolation of the body of 19-year-old Jorge Steven López Mercado in November 2009.  In the intervening months since his arrest, Martínez Matos has claimed gay panic and childhood sexual abuse as rationalizations for the murder he says he committed when he “discovered” that the gay teen was homosexual during a tryst.  A psychiatric examination has deemed Martínez Matos competent to stand trial for the crime. EDGE reports that Judge Myriam Camila Justino announced on March 8th Juan José Martínez Matos’ trial would begin in Caguas on April 14th, not on March 30th as previously announced.  No reason was given in the press for the postponement.  López Mercado’s horrific murder, arguably the worst anti-LGBT hate crime in Puerto Rico’s history, has served as a magnet both for homophobic/heterosexist prejudice and for social justice advocacy on behalf of the LGBT population on the island.  Law enforcement officers intimated to the press that the gay teen somehow got what he had coming to him because of his sexual orientation, comments that ignited a firestorm of protest both in Puerto Rico and on the U.S. mainland.  Attempts to besmirch the slain teenager’s character, thereby lessening the sympathy of the public for his killing, were made early on in the reportage surrounding the case.  Most recently, details of López Mercado’s alleged drug use and sex work have been brandished in the press.  Social action advocates for human rights such as Pedro Julio Serrano have repeatedly beaten back such character attacking tactics by reminding the public that the slain teenager is not on trial here–his alleged murderer is.  Politicians in the United States from the U.S. Congress and from New York city and state governments have traveled to Puerto Rico in recent months to focus attention on the plight of LGBT people in the U.S. Territory, and to express solidarity with the victim’s family.  Large protests have been staged in San Juan and in cities around that nation such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Dallas, Boston, and Washington, D.C.  The passage of the James Byrd, Jr. and Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act in October has set the stage for violence against LGBT people in Puerto Rico to be investigated in more effective ways than ever before.  Though a Puerto Rican law made violence against LGBT people there illegal, no one has ever been prosecuted under the provisions of the law until this case.  It remains to be seen if the power of cultural phobias and traditional religious antipathy to LGBT people will significantly impact the outcome of this trial.  But first the defendant must have his day in court, barring his petition to avoid a jury trial altogether.

March 9, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Character assassination, Decapitation and dismemberment, gay men, gay panic defense, gay teens, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard Act, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Popular Culture, Protests and Demonstrations, Puerto Rico, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, U.S. House of Representatives | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Judge Puts Off Murder Trial of Gay Puerto Rican Teen’s Confessed Killer

BB Gun Attackers Face Hate Crimes Charges in San Francisco

San Francisco, CA – Three cousins from Hayward are being charged with a hate crime for shooting a gay man in the face with a BB gun because they assumed he was a homosexual.  The Oakland Tribune reports that Mohammad Habibzada, 24, Shafiq Hashemi, 21, and Sayed Bassam, 21, saw a man standing outside a gay bar around 10 p.m. on February 26th in the Mission District of San Francisco smoking a cigarette.  They opened fire with a air rifle, hitting him in the face.  BB shot struck the victim in the cheek.  He was not seriously hurt, but as Assistant District Attorney Brian Buckelew noted to the Tribune, “Here we have a guy, shot in face with BB gun, who could have easily been shot in the eye.”  The victim got a clear look at a silver Volvo and reported the attack to police, who arrested the suspects within 15 minutes of the crime thanks to the description of the vehicle.  The alleged attackers had videoed the assault, and their handiwork is in the hands of police as evidence.  According to Buckelew, the video also includes evidence of similar crimes that are now under investigation.  Under police interrogation, the three suspects, all cousins with Hayward addresses, admitted that they chose their target because they thought he was gay.  The trio are facing three felony counts including assault with a deadly weapon with a hate crime enhancement, discharge of a firearm with gross negligence, and attempted mayhem.  They are also charged with a misdemeanor, violating the civil rights of their victim.  As the Tribune reports, all three suspects are now out of custody, each having posted a $50,000 bond. They are scheduled to be arraigned Friday, when the district attorney will request bail be raised to $100,000 because of the severity of the charges against them.  Other victims are in the video seized by police, representing several other crimes the trio may have committed.  The Assistant District Attorney said that there could be other charges against the three cousins if victims seen on the video come forward.

March 9, 2010 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, California, gay men, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order | , , , , , , | Comments Off on BB Gun Attackers Face Hate Crimes Charges in San Francisco

Austin Rallies Against Downtown Anti-LGBT Hate Crime

Daily Texan photo

Austin, TX – The safety of LGBT folk in the Texas capital remains in question as University of Texas students and native Austinites struggle with the events of February 20.  That night, two young gay men wearing Shady Ladies athletic jerseys were assaulted by four African American men shouting anti-gay slurs at them as the pair walked from one of Austin’s most popular gay bars to their car, parked near City Hall.  The attack struck Emmanuel Winston and Matt Morgan from behind.  They were brutally beaten and left on the sidewalk bleeding.  News of the assault has shaken Austin, which prides itself with a progressive reputation in the Lone Star State.  Though the investigation is ongoing, police are not yet able to label the attack a hate crime because of the peculiarity of Texas law.  Until an arrest has been made and a defendant is prosecuted, a crime cannot be called a “hate crime” under state statutes.  That is not stopping the supporters of the two gay men who were assaulted, however, according to News 8 Austin.  Jeff Butler, a friend of the targeted men, said, “They were followed, attacked from behind, and brutally beaten by four men who uttered slurs.  I don’t care how much lipstick you put on that pig. We will not allow you to cover this hate crime up.”  Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters, “I think we have to finish the investigation first to see what the totality of the facts, evidence and circumstances are.”  Acevedo then joined over 1,000 marchers as Winston and Morgan led the crowd from Oilcan Harry’s, the bar they visited that night, to the site of the attack.  The Shady Ladies, an LGBT friendly softball team, wore their distinctive pink and blue jerseys and brandished a banner reading, “Austin March Against Hate.”  The Daily Texan, UT’s student newspaper, reports that Glen Maxey, the first openly gay legislator in Texas history, expressed concern about the meaning of the attack.  Though anti-LGBT hatred was widespread in Texas twenty years ago, for such an attack to occur on the streets of Austin in 2010 is alarming to the gay rights pioneer.  “This is supposed to be behind us,” Maxey said.  A low-resolution camera caught the suspects on video, but because of the condition of the images, they could not be identified.  City officials are debating whether to increase the number of high-resolution surveillance cameras on city streets as a possible way to deter such crimes.  City Councilman Mike Martinez told The Daily Texan that the city had applied for federal funds to place more anti-crime cameras on the streets, but the feds denied the request.  Voicing his hope that the news of this crime will thaw up federal money, Martinez remains skeptical about stemming the tide of hate violence through technology alone.  “A camera can only take a picture of ignorance,” Martinez said. “It’s not going to cure it.”  For now, citizens of the Texas capital city are not so much concerned about “Keeping Austin Weird” as they are about keeping the streets of Austin safe.

March 3, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay men, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Protests and Demonstrations, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Graffiti Attack Sprays Hate at UC Davis: Students Rally

University of California at Davis – Vandalism swept UC Davis last week as LGBT and Jewish students reported being targeted by acts of hate on campus.  San Diego Gay and Lesbian News reports that homophobic slurs were spray painted on the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center building late in the night on Friday or early Saturday morning.  A Jewish student found a swastika carved into her dorm room door last week, as well.  The campus went into uproar, rallying to offer support to the victimized communities among them, and to let the unidentified perpetrators know that their actions will not pass without protest.  LGBT students and supporters went to work immediately to erase the slurs from the walls of the Resource Center.  KCRA News 3 reports that the anti-LGBT graffiti incident fits a pattern of other expressions of hate on a number of University of California system campuses recently.  At UC Irvine, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States was heckled with hate speech, disrupting his talk.  At UC San Diego, a fraternity weekend was punctuated with racial slurs surrounding the “Compton Cookout,” and a noose was found hanging from the campus library.  Two hundred UC Davis students met to frame responses to the incident on their campus.  Faculty and staff are meeting with the students to frame “actions steps” to address what is becoming a growing problem throughout collegiate populations in the Golden State.  The FBI has begun investigations into the rising climate of campus hate.

March 3, 2010 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, California, FBI, harassment, Heterosexism and homophobia, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Protests and Demonstrations, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, transphobia, vandalism | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Graffiti Attack Sprays Hate at UC Davis: Students Rally


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