In America in recent years, there have been movements to end the ‘Gay/Trans Panic Defence’, a strategy utilised by a defence team which is defined as “a legal strategy which asks a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction, including murder”. It, unfortunately, has been the saving grace of several people charged with the murder of homosexualsand trans people (who face greatly increased likelihood to experience hate crimes, estimated at 1 in 4 people). An example of this is the killing of Jennifer Laude, a 26 year old transgender woman who was killed by a 19 year old soldier called Joseph Scott Pemberton, part of the US Marines. 

The case was seemingly undeniably murder, with Jennifer found having been drowned and with asphyxiation marks on her neck in a hotel room that Joseph had also been in. However, by deploying the trans panic defence, the charge was lessened to a homicide. To add even more controversy to an already extremely problematic trial, the Phillipines president granted an absolute pardon to Pemberton, and he allegedly retains close relations with the United States. 

In my opinion, it is irrefutable that if we accept every person to be equal, this defence should no longer exist. However, I believe that it would reflect the standards of fair lawmaking if a ‘straight panic defence’ was brought into existence, the inverse of the gay/trans panic defence. 

As of yet, eight out of fifty states have outlawed either the gay defence, the trans defence or both. A fair compromise would be to implement either both the straight and gay panic defence, or neither, in all states.

Richmond and Twickenham Times: states that have banned (blue) or are considering banning (pink) the gay and trans defencestates that have banned (blue) or are considering banning (pink) the gay and trans defence