New Jersey Assembly Unanimously Votes To Outlaw ‘Gay Panic Defense’

Joe Avellar
November 25, 2019 - 3:56 pm

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TRENTON (WCBS 880) — New Jersey legislators on Monday unanimously voted to end the “gay panic defense” in the state.

The legal defense, which has been widely criticized, legally sanctioned discrimination against a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity, according to the American Bar Association.

Eight states (California, Illinois, Rhode Island, Nevada, Connecticut, Maine, Hawaii and New York) currently prohibit the use of the defense.

Currently, in states like New Jersey where the practice is still allowed, a defendant could argue that a crime was committed in the heat of the moment after learning about a victim’s gender identity or sexual orientation – allowing the jury to lessen the charge of something such as murder to manslaughter.

It was most recently tried in New Jersey in 2011 when Wilfredo Sanchez tried to lessen his murder conviction for stabbing and dismembering a man, using the “gay panic defense.” Though, he was unsuccessful on appeal.

Opponents say the current law diminishes worth of the victim because of their identity.

The bill now moves on to the New Jersey Senate, where a companion bill is currently in committee.