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Appeals court upholds ruling that ‘gay panic’ was not sufficient defense

Monday, June 20, 2011
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A Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court’s decision rejecting use of the so-called “gay panic defense” in a case where the defendant attacked and severely beat another man for what he testified was unwanted sexual advances.

In a majority finding, two of the three Appellate justices ruled that the disparity between defendant Dale Edward Cutler’s version of the events leading to the charges and his victim Ryan Young’s, were significant enough to as cast legal reasonable doubt on Cutler’s testimony of the incident — precluding use of the so-called “gay panic defense.”

The appellate court’s ruling, cited the following:

This case arises from the beating of Ryan Young. In the early morning hours of June 11, 2009, Young was celebrating his birthday with friends at a local bar. Defendant was also at the bar. Young did not know defendant, but defendant joined Young and his friends at their table and defendant and Young talked and became acquainted. At about 3:30 a.m., Young and defendant were dropped off at Young’s apartment. Young testified that he went into his bedroom to change and asked defendant:

“Did you want to do anything or did you just want to go to bed,” to which defendant responded:

“Yeah, I’m going to do something you fucking faggot.”

Young testified that defendant choked him “so bad” that he “could not get away from him” and Young thought he was going to die because defendant “wouldn’t get off me and just stop punching me.” Young believed that he was fighting for his life. Young remembered defendant cutting off his oxygen until he passed out and that, when he came to, defendant was “just still bashing my face in” until he went unconscious again. Young believed defendant hit him “a good 30 times.” According to Young, he never tried to touch defendant and neither of them ever fell asleep—except when Young went unconscious from the assault. Young testified that there was no discussion about flipping the television on or anything and that he believed this was because defendant had the assault already planned.

The defendant’s testimony before the trail court and jury offered a divergent tale. Cutler stated that he and the victim had gone to bed in the same bed and he awoke to find Young with his hand in Cutler’s pants. Culter is quoted by the Appeals Court as saying:

“There was a struggle. I think it was my momentum that threw him off the bed but we ended up rolling off the bed and I ended up on top. . . . I think the hold broke when we fell to the ground. . . . Then I was on top then and I punched him . . . Probably about four or five [times] . . . . Then I got up and left.”

However, Cutler admitted under oath during the trial proceedings that he beat the victim into unconsciousness in order to make sure he didn’t do anything to prevent him from leaving.

The jury found Cutler guilty of assault with intent to great bodily harm and he was sentenced to 11 to 25 years in prison as a habitual offender.

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