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Texas Man Found Not Guilty of Murder After Using Gay Panic Defense

From staff reports

An Austin man was found not guilty of murder this week after his attorneys used the gay panic defense.

James Miller, 69, was instead found guilty of criminally negligent homicide in the 2015 death of 32-year-old Daniel Spencer.

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Miller was sentenced to 10 years of probation on Wednesday, April 25. As a condition of probation, he will serve 180 days in jail and pay more than $10,000 in restitution.

KXAN-TV reports:

The defense argued Miller stabbed his neighbor when Spencer allegedly came on to him. The prosecution argued blood evidence didn’t match Miller’s story. …

Miller’s defense is also known as the “gay panic defense.” While it’s a rare defense, it is legal in most states. NBC News reports it’s been used in about half of all the states with some success as part of an insanity or self-defense claim.

There is a push to ban the defense in several states, including Texas. In December, Illinois became the second state to ban it. California banned it in 2014 after the American Bar Association called on states to eliminate it.

More from the Austin Statesman:

Spencer was killed at his home early Monday morning on September 21, after inviting Miller to his house to play songs on the guitar. Spencer, a film editor from Los Angeles, had moved to Austin in 2014.

The two men had been drinking, and Miller told officials he thought Spencer was coming on to him, according to a police report. Miller, who took the witness stand during his trial, said he told Spencer he was not gay and tried to leave, and then Spencer started yelling at him and waving his hands. When asked if they fought, Miller said no.

Prosecutors said because Spencer did not touch Miller or state any intention to hurt him, the notion that he used deadly force for self defense was “ludicrous.”

State prosecutor Matthew Foye said the fact that Spencer was stabbed in the back and that Miller showed no sign of harm on his body the day of the murder proves the defense’s argument of self-defense was unfounded.

Watch KXAN’s report below.


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