Assemblywoman Bonilla and Equality California Propose to Ban “Panic Defense” Legal Strategy by Murder Defendants

February 26, 2014 15:00 pm · 58 comments

Assemblywoman Susan A. Bonilla and Equality California announced that they are partnering to introduce legislation to end the use of the “gay panic” or “trans panic” defense strategy – a tactic used by defendants charged for murder who claim their violent acts were triggered by panic resulting from discovery of the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

“It is reprehensible to learn that criminal defendants are encouraged by their defense counsel to employ a ‘gay panic’ or ‘trans panic’ defense in an attempt to receive a possible lesser charge or avoid conviction,” said Assemblywoman Bonilla. “A panic attack defense allows a criminal defendant to claim that violence against the LGBT community is somehow understandable or acceptable due to the victim’s orientation or gender identity. With this bill, we are making it very clear that it is never acceptable, and that there is no place for prejudice against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

AB 2501, sponsored by Equality California, a statewide advocacy organization for the LGBT community, would prohibit the use of a “panic defense” to qualify for a conviction of voluntary manslaughter instead. Current law calls for the jury to be instructed that their verdict should not be influenced by bias against a victim.

There have been several high-profile cases over the past ten years where panic defenses were used. One heinous case occurred in 2004 in the Bay Area, when four men beat and strangled teenager Gwen Araujo after they discovered her transgender status. The four men blamed each other for the killing as well as asserting panic defenses.

“It is an outrage to allow the use of panic defenses and in doing so blame the victims of horrific acts of violence,” said John O’Connor, director of EQCA. “Homophobia and transphobia have no place in California’s justice system.”

AB 2501 will be heard in a policy committee later this spring.

anonymous February 26, 2014 at 3:11 PM

Perfect Susan!

Silva February 26, 2014 at 3:14 PM

Sounds good to me!

Bob February 26, 2014 at 3:19 PM

Has Bonilla ever heard of a document called the Constitution? I recommend reading it. If a person wants to assert a defense, any defense, they get to do it. If it offends some group , thats tough.

We have juries to separate real defenses from crack pot defenses. Making a law saying you cant defend yourself unless its pleasing to the legislature is an insult to our system, and Bonilla should be ashamed of herself.

Grumpy Old Man February 26, 2014 at 3:19 PM

Almost time to vote…did not even have to look at the calendar. Mark and Susan always let us know when we should pay attention to all of their accomplishments.

@ Bob February 26, 2014 at 3:29 PM

You nailed it.

By the way, they were all convicted. Two of the defendants were convicted of second-degree murder, but not convicted on the requested hate crime enhancements. The other two defendants pleaded guilty or no contest to voluntary manslaughter. So what’s the problem ? Enhanced sentencing for “hate crime”? All crime is hate crime. This is pandering to the LGBT zealots. Nothing less.

Sheila February 26, 2014 at 3:33 PM

There are men, especially young men who do panic when they find out “she is a he.” I’m not a man, but I can see where it might “be an issue.”

Personally, I don’t think it’s an act, especially when it happens to young men. I truly believe they freak out, and I understand why.

But it shouldn’t result in murder. If you’re a man, and you find out “he’s a she”, just walk away.

City Girl February 26, 2014 at 3:34 PM

Oh brother!

Michelle February 26, 2014 at 3:37 PM

That should have never been an excuse, persecute them to the limits of the law!

bob February 26, 2014 at 3:38 PM

There is president for this, being drunk or in the military, “I was following Orders”. At present several states prohibit the use of voluntary intoxication as a defense.
I don’t disagree that allowing the legislature to randomly pick and choose which legal defenses a defendant can use is a very slippery slope, and one I would rather not go down. Susan, please keep this good intention to your self. I already have enough paving stones for my path to Hell, I don’t need you adding more.

nature lover February 26, 2014 at 3:49 PM

She is obviously courting the Gay Lobby in preparation for running for a higher office.

Amy February 26, 2014 at 3:52 PM

Susan and Mark should spend their time enforcing laws on the books rather than dreaming up new laws to appease to the minorities just for votes.

Anne February 26, 2014 at 3:58 PM

Good job, Susan!

anon February 26, 2014 at 4:17 PM

Leave it up to the judge.

Jerk February 26, 2014 at 4:50 PM

I know that I’m sometimes a simpleton, but perhaps, just perhaps – How about a FULL disclosure up front. Maybe Bonilla should go after LIARS and DECEIVERS!!!!

RANDOM TASK February 26, 2014 at 5:00 PM

they should also stop piggybacking others …….but LOL WOW that makes too much sense because the dems in this state for 40 years have been riding on the tax payers to further their careers instead of doing their jobs. Defend em all you want the state has been run by dems for 40 years and here we are …..boys allowed to go in the girls locker room …more section 8 than the entire east coast ……no money …well they claim and yet every organization is saying hey we have a surplus and yet never see any suplus money actually go and do anything. golden gate took out toll takers and now have millions in surplus and yet will raise the toll to 7 dollars …why because they can and we will never see any improvements and or money trail since the dems put that in a locked room years ago

anonmtz February 26, 2014 at 5:08 PM

8 and 9……interesting use of the word “persecute”……twice.

Bob the Repairman February 26, 2014 at 5:10 PM

What a fool!!!! Can’t we get rid of these jackass politicians??????

Just February 26, 2014 at 5:12 PM

talked to a lesbian attorney. When she got done laughing over this bill she pointed out that a defendant gets to put his story in front of a jury. They get to decide if the defense is valid. Thats how we roll in this country.

Atticus Thraxx February 26, 2014 at 5:15 PM

Banning defense strategies, no matter how abhorrent strays on thin Constitutional ice seems to me. But everything I know about criminal law I learned on Law & Order.

Betty Sanchez February 26, 2014 at 5:16 PM

Another political leaded full of nothing??????

Gus February 26, 2014 at 5:30 PM

Another law that helps .005% of us.

Vicky February 26, 2014 at 5:35 PM

@20, You’re about as stupid as they get.

Atticus Thraxx February 26, 2014 at 5:52 PM

Easy Matt,we can see your slip.

@Vicky February 26, 2014 at 5:58 PM

Despite what you may believe, calling other people stupid, only makes you appear to be stupider than they are.

Anonymous February 26, 2014 at 6:21 PM


You just dont get it do you? When the legislature decides that a defendant can’t speak in his own defense and say what happened (even when he makes it up) we are perilously close to loosing our freedoms. Im not in favor of murdering anyone, but I am in favor of fair trials. You’re not.

Officer Barbrady February 26, 2014 at 6:26 PM

Mr Atticis Thraxx knoiws more then he lets on. Fact is there are lots of goofy defenses offered. Who cares? We have judges and juries to figure this stuff out and they usually get things right. Im uneasy with a government that limits what a defendant can say to defend himself, although it would be real convenient sometimes.

In fact, the whole Constitution can be damned inconvenient, but we muddle by.

I’m surprised Bonilla would sign on to something this bad.

When some guy decides to February 26, 2014 at 6:27 PM

dress up like a girl, act like a girl, flirt with other guys like a girl and then demands not getting the crap beat out of him once he’s discovered? Now that’s the crook.

Most of these incidents occur in someone’s back yard or the back seat.

If some fool wants to walk around and try to fool others, no matter what the excuse, they deserve whatever they get.

Anon February 26, 2014 at 6:29 PM

Michelle -you are right prosecute them to the fullest extent, oh and by the way, let them defend themselves to the fullest extent of the law. You left that part out.

Rick February 26, 2014 at 6:37 PM


And you’re more stupid than both of them. Use more stupid., not stupider.

Atticus is stupid.

Rick February 26, 2014 at 6:40 PM

I knew it was coming. Matt said the other day that he’s a Hispanic male in his 30’s, and it didn’t take long for Thraxx to jump on him.


RunDogRun February 26, 2014 at 6:42 PM

The best defense us the one that
works, whatever that might be. Our
politicians want us to lie down and
let the few roll over us like a steam

Cowellian February 26, 2014 at 6:45 PM

Well, well, Miss Vicky! What is this, your first day on Claycord, and you somehow feel the need to attack all the Claycord regulars?

Yhe Phantom February 26, 2014 at 6:55 PM

“There have been several high-profile cases over the past ten years where panic defenses were used. One heinous case occurred in 2004 in the Bay Area, when four men beat and strangled teenager Gwen Araujo after they discovered her transgender status. The four men blamed each other for the killing as well as asserting panic defenses.”

– After some had relations with him/her…panic?

– They got convicted but only for killing someone like your niece or nephew, without the transgender killing motive…that would be the hate crime part.

Even the lesbian attorney needs to study “jury instruction” statutes.
Jury instructions are the set of legal rules that jurors ought follow when deciding a case.

You can present anything you want but they may be instructed to ignore your hysterics…and panic!

Gus February 26, 2014 at 6:59 PM

Rick, try boxers that thong is making you angry.

Connie Dobbs February 26, 2014 at 7:04 PM

Oh, goody. It’s Rick. And Sandra, and Dave, and Keith…..

Ted K., SuperMax February 26, 2014 at 7:05 PM

Hey Susan,

How about working on a bill that supports encourages private sector job creation?

Dorothy February 26, 2014 at 7:12 PM

I would rather ban the various insanity defenses, temporary or otherwise.

Cowellian February 26, 2014 at 7:25 PM

Apparently, the gang with only one brain has a quorum, and even some new members and groupies.

Anon February 26, 2014 at 7:31 PM

Once again a minority uses the courts, or stupid politicians to get special protection. After all, is killing a normal person a “love crime”?

Clayton Valley Grad February 26, 2014 at 7:50 PM

Hey Cowellian, if it was someone’s first day on Claycord, how the hell would they know who the regulars are? What the hell kind of ignorant statement is that?

Clayton Valley Grad February 26, 2014 at 7:56 PM

I heard of group of Clayton Valley Grads, Class of ’95 have been coming around lately. Not that I know any of these people.

I’m sure they’ll be accused of having one brain too, which is better than NO BRAIN.

Anonymous February 26, 2014 at 8:14 PM

So now we are going to have a jury instruction that says no one can panic?
Mr prolific suggests such a thing. My, my that going to be strange. Better then a jury..oh nevermind.You cant change this guys closed mind about anything, ever.

Cowellian February 26, 2014 at 8:58 PM

Ask her yourself, Clayton Valley Grad. Then maybe you’ll be a little less ignorant.

Weig February 26, 2014 at 9:02 PM

Boy how I miss you guys. Haven’t been on this site in about 6 months.. Never again will I be gone so long.. As for the topic I due believe Susan is just trying to gather future votes from the LGBT comm. If someone wants to act and trick people into believing they are of the opposite sex, then when discovered yes they deserve to get their ass beat, but not murdered. IMO

Anon February 26, 2014 at 10:27 PM

At some point we will all have to be gay just so we have equal rights.

Antler February 27, 2014 at 1:14 AM

I hope this legislation will be passed and thoroughly scrutinized up the court levels. It is no different from say….a person murdering a person of a different race from him and then getting acquitted because he claims he is terrified of people of that race because…..(fill in the blank). Or terrified of anyone from THAT country because of the Boston bombing…..or whatever else comes to mind. Even to saying something such as, “My uncle used to jump out at us kids when we were going down the hall; so whenever I’m startled, I shoot first because I am entitled to protect myself.” Such a defense is a nebulous claim, and juries……being peers and all…..can also be as squirrelly as the defendant.

Dorothy, I agree with your objection to the admissibility of insanity pleas. And on top of that, if only I had the power to effect such a change in the laws, sex offenders would NEVER be released from prison!

@Rick #31 February 27, 2014 at 4:48 AM

Thank you for proving my point.

@antler February 27, 2014 at 7:39 AM

Two things; just because a defense is used doesn’t mean the jury buys it. Telling a defendant he can’t use any defense he proposes is ,in my opinion , flat wrong.Thats nazi show trial stuff , not American.

The problem with locking up sex offenders for life is this: gives them huge incentive to murder the victim.

Idiocracy February 27, 2014 at 11:44 AM

This is what she comes up with while I actually work!

WC February 27, 2014 at 12:39 PM

Susan B., good job in answering the call of the LGBT lobby and pushing the bill they wrote forward. I’m sure they mentioned the consequences of you not moving it forward. Please, keep your door / calendar closed and work on things for us poor saps who live in your district. Look around at the schools, infrastructure, economic situation. Get to work!

Anonymous February 27, 2014 at 2:53 PM

Constitution or campaign money? . She is selling us out, one contribution at a time.

hahayourefunny February 27, 2014 at 3:05 PM

I know this is going to fall on deaf ears, but ….

the comments equating being transgender, gender queer, or part of the LGBTQ community to “TRICKING” people really… confuse me.

If someone who has been labeled a girl but feels to their core that they are more male in nature pretends against their own better judgment to act in accordance to what society says is right for them… isn’t *that* trickery? Isn’t that living a lie to appease other people?

I think its really interesting that listening to your body, knowing yourself, and wanting to live a life that feels REAL instead of forced, prescriptive, or inauthentic is seen as trickery.

who gets to decide what an individuals “real” sex or gender is, anyway? certainly not anybody other than that individual.

That being said, I agree with those who have said this legislation seems like a waste of time and an infringement of people’s rights

(kind of like how telling someone how to express their gender or sexuality is imposing on *their* rights…),

Just my 2 cents

Huh? February 27, 2014 at 3:36 PM

I don’t think anyone is accusing others of “tricking” someone. When young men meet someone they think is a young woman, they’re hoping she’s “always been a woman.”

When a young woman meets a young man, she’s hoping he’s “always been a man..”

That sounds pretty NORMAL to me.

Anonymous February 27, 2014 at 4:34 PM

@haha yourfunny

You are pretty much right. The issue comes up with Trannie prostitution when a client discovers that the hooker isn’t a woman. Lots of fights then , lots of violence . Lets not pretend though that the trannie is being upfront about being a guy, they are not.

Can that cause panic? I suppose so, it certainly would be irritating to many.

Bonilla , in her haste to get contributions, is backing legislation that simply says a killer can’t try and explain why he did what he did. I know of no other time when the 1st amendment has been so forcefully attacked.
Its just wrong. Let the killer say what he wants and let the jury know the facts and decide.

I am ashamed that I voted for Bonilla. I thought she was smart.

@ 50 February 27, 2014 at 4:51 PM

remember, Antler is a communist. She herself alone is perfect in every way and she should be on a pedestal somewhere with pigeons crapping all over her.

Anonymous February 27, 2014 at 6:24 PM

Bonilla blames defense attorneys for making this stuff up. As a Constitutional Officer, has she reported this to the Barr Association?

Deer phallus February 27, 2014 at 6:36 PM

How about a law that says people can’t plead not guilty if we think they are guilty? Or if we don’t think their excuse is PC enough.

We could learn a lot from North Korea if we just had open minds.

William Shatner trying to pass a huckleberry through his urethra February 27, 2014 at 7:50 PM

That’s one heck of a handle you have there. Won’t touch with a ten foot pole.

I’m done. You can beam me up now

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