By John Wright
LGBT advocates had mixed reactions Monday to the news that Jon Buice, the only person still behind bars for the notorious 1991 gay-bashing murder of Houston banker Paul Broussard, had been granted parole.
Buice, then 17, was one of 10 young men from The Woodlands who jumped Broussard, 27, outside a gay bar in Montrose in the early morning hours of July 4, 1991.
Seven years before Matthew Shepard’s death, Broussard’s was among the first antigay hate crimes to receive national media attention.
Buice, the knife-man who inflicted the fatal wound, received the stiffest sentence—45 years—and Broussard’s other nine killers have all been released.
On Friday, a committee voted 2-0 to grant Buice parole, according to The Houston Chronicle.
Buice was granted parole once before, in 2011, but the decision was overturned amid protests from LGBT groups, including Equality Texas and the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, as well as state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston.
Daniel Williams, Houston-based legislative specialist for Equality Texas, said the group hasn’t taken a formal position on the issue this time.
“Buice now has the opportunity to prove he has truly changed,” Williams said Monday. “Equality Texas respects the decision of the parole board while recognizing this is an emotional and charged issue for many in the LGBT community.”
Noel Freeman, former president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, said he was disappointed in the decision.
“Given the brutal and violent nature of Paul’s murder, I agree with Paul’s mother that Buice should serve at least as many years as Paul lived,” Freeman said.
The Caucus voted earlier this year not to take a position on Buice’s parole.
Broussard’s mother, Nancy Rodriguez of Georgia, has repeatedly traveled to Texas to testify against Buice’s release, arguing he should serve at least 27 years.
“In my heart I feel that he’s going to hurt somebody else,” Rodriguez told the Chronicle.
The issue of Buice’s parole has long divided the Houston community.
Pioneering gay activist Ray Hill worked with police to bring the killers to justice in the wake of Broussard’s murder. But in recent years, Hill has advocated for Buice’s release. Hill argues Buice is rehabilitated, and he no longer believes Broussard’s murder was a hate crime.
But Andy Kahan, victims-rights advocate for the city of Houston, strongly disagrees.
“The paroling of a convicted killer who has served essentially 51 percent of a sentence will indeed have a chilling effect for all homicide survivors,” Kahan told The Guardian. “Is this the message the parole board wants to convey to the law-abiding citizens of our state?”
Kahan and Rodriguez reportedly plan to appeal the committee’s decision.
No release date has been set, and Buice must still have a parole plan approved. If he’s released, he’ll remain supervised until 2037.