Sunday, October 05, 2003

Killed for being queer?

In 1993, a North Carolina man, Edward Hartman, shot and killed 77-year-old Herman Smith Jr. It was, without doubt, a cowardly, sickening, detestable crime, and Hartman deserved to be punished.

However, the case was not without mitigating circumstances. Hartman grew up in an atmosphere of grinding misery and continual abuse by his disturbed and suicidal mother and her string of boyfreinds and husbands. He was so severly beaten on one occasion as a child that he was left unconscious and hospitalized. He was a victim of repeated, terrifying sexual abuse. Emotionally and physically tortured, violated by the adults he should have been able to trust-- surely these factors would have swayed any reasonable jury? Surely they could have found it in them to ask for sentence of life imprisonment instead of the death penalty?

Well, no. Because Edward Hartman was gay, and according to his prosecutor, sexual abuse is "different for homosexuals." (Yeah, you read that right. Apparently raping children is okay now so long as they're queer children. ) He made repeated references to Hartman's sexuality throughout the case, using it to erode any sympathy that the jury might have had for the defendant.

The hand-picked jury, twelve honest homophobic fuckbakes and true, swallowed the whole thing. They handed down the death penalty. Despite protests, despite appeals to the courts and to any shred of basic decency still left in the legal system, that sentence was carried out on Friday.

Leaving aside the inherent iniquity of the death penalty for a moment, you may like to reflect on whether Hartman would have been put to death had he been straight. Don't go away thinking this is an isolated incident, either; it's not.

Read more about the case in this Zmag article, if you can stand it. An Advocate report is here.

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