Gay Panic Defense Gets Murder Defendant Off

By Zach Christman
|  Tuesday, Jul 28, 2009  |  Updated 1:18 PM CDT
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Gay Panic Defense Gets Murder Defendant Off

Joseph Biedermann said his neighbor tried to rape him, so he stabbed and slashed the man 61 times.

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"How do you stab and slash someone 61 times, not just killing but slaughtering him, then walk free?"

So asks the Tribune's Eric Zorn after a Chicago man was acquitted in the violent killing of his neighbor, who the man claimed tried to rape him.

Joseph Biedermann, now 30, admitted to repeatedly stabbing Terrance Hauser last year. Both men were at Hauser's apartment after a night of drinking. Biedermann claimed he passed out, and when he woke up, Hauser had a sword to his throat and was demanding that Biedermann take his clothes off.

Biedermann said that started a fight in which he grabbed a dagger and stabbed Hauser repeatedly while trying to escape. Such "gay panic" defenses have been used in several high-profile cases, often unsuccessfully.

Prosecutors argued that Biedermann's story didn't add up.

The apartment showed little sign of a struggle (two wine glasses on a table weren't overturned). Biedermann was larger and not as drunk as Hauser, and there's no way he would have needed to stab Hauser five dozen times to escape, prosecutors argued. And rather than immediately call for help, Biedermann returned to his apartment, soaked in blood, showered and went to a hospital before his girlfriend eventually called 911.

But those arguments didn't stand with jurors, who acquitted Biedermann on first-degree murder charges. The jury wasn't allowed to consider second-degree murder charges -- a gamble by the prosecution that didn't pay off.

Biedermann's attorney, Sam Adam Jr., said the verdict "wasn't anti-gay, it was anti-rape."

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