The Ohio Parole Board was presented with a laughably offensive plea for mercy today as death row inmate Robert Van Hook tried to claim "homosexual panic" as the reason he fatally strangled, stabbed and mutilated the body of David Self after luring him out of a gay bar Cincinnati in 1985 before fleeing to Florida.
, a homosexual panic or "gay panic" defense is when the defendant claims they acted in a state of violent temporary insanity because of unwanted homosexual advances from another individual. Closely related, "trans panic" is related to an assailant(s) reportedly engaging in sexual relations unaware of the victim's birth gender until seeing them naked, or further into or post coitus.
Van Hook is scheduled to be executed on July 18 of this year for his crimes, pending Gov. John Kasich's final decision on whether or not Van Hook deserves clemency.
Fortunately, prosecutors have dismissed Van Hook’s "homosexual panic" plea, explaining that he had a history of seducing and exploiting gay men in order to rob them.
“This is a man who had cynically manipulated homosexuals for years,” the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office wrote in a filing
. “He posed as a gay, he frequented bars that were gay and he preyed on vulnerable victims who were gay.”
This is an extremely odd defense for Van Hook, given the fact he last made headlines for announcing his engagement
to a woman he met through the prison pen pal system.
He also attempted to appeal his sentencing in 2009, but the U.S. Supreme Court
gave him a big, fat rejection and upheld his conviction and sentencing for the death sentence.
His homosexual panic defense is absolutely ludicrous and even if it were true, would not excuse his continued history of violence including stabbing a fellow Death Row inmate last November as presented by the prosecutors.
The American Bar Association has been pushing for legislation
limiting the use of homosexual panic as a defense, noting that a victim's sexual orientation or gender identity does not justify a criminal defendant's violent behavior.
California and Illinois have both already banned the "gay panic" defense in their courts, with New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania voting on the issue later this year. Rhode Island voted yesterday on banning the "trans panic
" defense and the issue will now move onto the Senate.
No word on whether or not Ohio is pursuing similar legislation in the near future.
UPDATE: Cleveland Scene was contacted by David Stebbins, Robert Van Hook's new defense attorney via email to clarify that "his original trial counsel and his subsequent counsel on appeal raised the 'homosexual panic defense.' At the recent clemency hearing, counsel presented evidence that Robert's previous attorneys were ineffective in raising this type of misguided defense and as a result, ignored other compelling facts about Robert's background."
"The only references in the petition to 'homosexual panic' are citations to the original 1985 trial. We argued that Robert did not receive a fair trial - because that is what his trial attorneys did. At the clemency hearing, we presented the evidence that SHOULD have been presented at trial."
Stebbins has also contacted the Associated Press who first incorrectly reported the information about the 'gay panic' defense.