Bil Browning

Why the media isn't paying attention to Aaron Hall's killing

Filed By Bil Browning | June 13, 2007 1:03 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, The Movement
Tags: Aaron Hall, gay panic, hate crimes against LGBT people, Indiana, Mainstream media, murder

You may have noticed the talk around the blogosphere about the murder of Hoosier Aaron Hall and the cries about why the mainstream media hasn't picked up on the story. Advance Indiana has a post from early May entitled "Why Won't the Star Cover the Hate Crime Killing of Aaron Hall?" that has gotten some play around the web lately - including links from Daily Kos, Towleroad and others - after the Bloomington Alternative did an article about the gruesome murder.

The story of the killing is certainly diabolical and shocking and the Kos post summarizes it succinctly:

Two young men in Jackson County Indiana said they were so freaked out when 'propositioned' by Aaron Hall on April 12th, that they proceeded to beat the 100 pound, 5'4 man for hours, using their fists, boots, dragging him down a staircase while his head slammed into each step, and then throwing him in a ditch and leaving. Aaron managed to crawl out of the ditch and out into a nearby field, where he died, alone and naked.

But there's still one major problem with the story and why it hasn't been picked up as a major reason why Indiana should immediately enact hate crimes legislation...

It wasn't a hate crime.

Now, as I said earlier, this is indeed a horrible and gruesome murder. The details of what happened that night and during the week following will turn your stomach. But the problem that folks are going to have in trying to promote the story as a reason to enact hate crimes legislation (and the reason why I haven't blogged about it before) is simple - Aaron Hall wasn't a gay man. He was a middle-aged, white, straight man and the last I checked, hate crimes legislation was about protecting members of a minority group when someone commits a crime intended to intimidate other members of the community. This simply doesn't fit the definition of a hate crime.

While the attackers are trying to use the "gay panic" defense for their actions, the facts simply don't match up to mark this as a hate crime. The "gay panic" defense, which is not legally recognized, means that the attacker was propositioned by a gay person and responded violently when they "panicked." It has been used successfully in some cases and the defendants are trying to use it here. Unfortunately, for the overzealous bloggers though, "gay panic" and "hate crimes" aren't necessarily inter-related. As Advance Indiana points out in another post:

Before police publicly announced the arrests of Coleman King, Garrett Gray and James Hendricks, rumors were circulating around town claiming that the accused were saying Aaron was gay and that he had AIDS according to [Crothersville resident Leslie] Horton. She worries that this might be part of an effort to shift the blame away from the accused and towards the victim by stigmatizing him in the hope of getting off easy. In a small community like Crothersville, virtually no potential juror would come to the case without prior knowledge of "alleged" or "rumored" facts. "While hate crimes are certainly terrible, people are losing sight that this man was not gay in the slightest, it was a ploy to make their crime seem justifiable since it seems to be condoned by some evil people in this world,"

While some have used this murder to point out that Indiana is one of only five states left that doesn't have a hate crimes law, I think that is a misguided argument that will only hurt us rather than help. One of the common arguments used against hate crimes legislation is that over-zealous prosecutors will charge folks with a hate crime when none has been committed. And in this case they would be correct. If you're a white straight guy killing another white straight guy while you're drunk and high, you're committing murder - not a hate crime.

In fact, the Bloomington Alternative story points to other Crothersville residents who say that homosexuality had nothing to do with the killing whatsoever:

[Indy Star editorial writer RiShawn] Biddle's assessment is shared by others, especially in Jackson County. Many of them see it as [a] bunch of kids drinking and going crazy.

An anonymous contributor wrote in Welsh's blog: "No one in the News knows what the hell they're talking about. I know what went on i really do. It wasn't a hate crime. Garrett hit him because he said F#%% you and your mom and his mom was dead. Anyone that knows him knows that."

One local woman, who also says the murder was not a hate crime, told the Alternative that Gray's mother has been dead for years.

So why isn't the Indy Star covering this awful hate crime? Simple. It's not a hate crime. It's just another senseless, awful, stomach-turning murder in a small southern Indiana town. A town that's not covered by the Star's circulation, mind you as the town is closer to Louisville, KY than Indy. While we all know that violence and blood sell newspapers, I don't see how this case is any different from the hundreds of murders that have happened in Indy in the past couple of years. There were several hideous crimes committed in Indianapolis lately that have been under-reported and this case is no different. It'll sell newspapers around Crothersville, but they don't reach there. And to your average Indianapolis resident, it would just be another story of a "bunch of kids drinking and going crazy."

And that's as it should be. Let's not make a mountain out of a mole hill. Murder? Yes. Horrible, gruesome, atrocious crime? Definitely. But hate crime? Not at all.

Bandwagon that'll bite us all in the ass? Oh yeah...


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I dunno, dude. I'd wait for more facts about this story than just some anonymous commenter on Gary's blog saying that s/he knows why the murder happened. Just because he isn't gay doesn't mean that the murderers didn't think that he was, and honestly that's just as scary as killing him and he actually turns out to be gay. Like it's not about identity, it's about motive. And most hate crimes laws include a "actual and perceived" phrase to cover that.

And this does seem to be evidence of the need for hate crimes legislation. If they're trying to blame the victim and stigmatize him here by saying that he's gay, then that goes to show that queer victims don't get equal justice and hate crimes legislation is needed. I don't think it's playing into their hands to speculate about him being gay because all victims of violence are just as much victims regardless of their sexuality.

I'd just wait on this one to see how the prosecution goes after it. The defense might just be a ploy, but it is pretty explicitly saying that they killed him because they thought he was gay. And saying that it wasn't a hate crime because the victim wasn't actually gay goes to prove that argument by wingers that hate crimes legislation is just about giving certain victims more protection than others because of their identity instead of being about the nature of the crime itself.

Perhaps I have misunderstood your position or the definition of a hate crime, but I fail to see how this isn't a hate crime. The victim was killed because of his perceived sexual orientation, no?

I don't think that Aaron was killed because his killers though he was gay. From all reports, the alleged killers say that Hall grabbed one of the men's crotches and asked them for oral sex - which sounds a lot like a drunk guy saying, "Suck my dick" - a common put down.

I, personally, believe it more likely that since a week went by before the body was discovered, they came up with an excuse as to why they killed him. The perpetrators knew Hall for a long time and knew he wasn't gay. To suddenly claim that he made a pass at one of them sounds much more like the "gay panic" defense than a hate crime.

This is more of a reason to point out that these kids are tying to use his sexuality as an excuse as to why they killed him, when it's just not true. They killed him while drunk and high and came up with an excuse afterwards. Being "gay" had nothing to do with it, in my opinion.

Bil, I hate to say it dear friend, but when you get it wrong, you really get it wrong. The Hall killing has all the hallmarks of a hate crime--most obviously being the overkill in this case. By even the killers own account the killing went on for hours. The two attackers were much bigger than the 100 pound, 5'4" Hall. He was stripped naked. The attackers took photos of themselves with their victim and text-messaged them to a friend. After dumping his naked body in a ditch and leaving him for dead, the attackers returned with a shot gun. One of the attackers fired the gun twice. We don't know if Hall was struck but we know he crawled to a nearby field where he was discovered the next day. Your recitation here is so off the mark Bil, you should be ashamed of yourself. I frankly feel you are taking this position simply because it was my blog which brought this story to the attention of other folks in the blogosphere. You frankly should be ashamed of yourself. I notice you haven't said one word about Mike Hobbs announcing DP benefits for Lawrence Township employees. Is it because it appeared on my blog first?

Even though I agree with you generally, I do want to respond to one thing:

Gary Welsh said:

I notice you haven't said one word about Mike Hobbs announcing DP benefits for Lawrence Township employees. Is it because it appeared on my blog first?
No, Gary, it isn't, and thanks for erasing the rest of us. Even though Bil has his name at the top of this blog, there are sixteen other contributors that have access to post on the frontpage who all thought that that story wasn't the sort of thing that they'd like to cover here. The decision not to post about a story is made by seventeen people individually here at Bilerico, because never have I and very rarely has Bil told people not to post on something. (In fact, I think that I was told only once not to post on something that I wanted to post on, and that was Bil forwarding an email from someone elsewhere in the blogosphere who didn't want that issue to gain any more traction).

I think it's more accurate to say that Lawrence Township DP benefits isn't getting coverage here is because that story's outside the scope of the new Bilerico and outside the interest of most of the contributors (more half live outside Indianapolis, about half live outside Indiana, and I don't know how many of those that live in Indianapolis live in Lawrence Township). If it happened this past week, though, I may include it in the Friday Update.

Gary, Gary, Gary...

It's always something personal with you isn't it? Did you ever consider that perhaps few of our contributors even read your blog? As Alex pointed out, half our contributors now live outside Indiana and I'll add to that by pointing out that 75% of our readership is now outside Indiana as well. Most of our readers and our contributors either don't know about your blog or don't care what you have to say because you are not relevant to their lives. It's not personal, Gary, it's relevance, scope, and editorial prerogative.

What seems personal is that you get all high and mighty when someone doesn't cover something in the way you want it covered or when they ignore something you're passionate about. This isn't your first (nor likely your last) diatribe on this issue. I've been privy to several email threads where you have harangued other bloggers for not covering this topic or another or you disagree with their coverage on something...And never once are you nice about it. You berate, belittle, and bemoan, but you don't offer a compelling personality to work with on any issue, let alone something that's as contentious as this one.

I stopped reading your blog regularly several months ago. Now, I only read when there is something of particular interest that gets pointed out. I've talked to a number of people who have done the same. We all feel you have a good eye for certain issues and that you have contributed good things to the blogosphere (the Miller pieces come to mind for example,) but I for one feel like your attitude, bluster, and generally hateful tone is just too grating to deal with on a regular basis. This is yet another example of that infamous attitude.

If you wonder why you're becoming irrelevant and no one listens to you, consider your tone of voice and choice of words when addressing others. Also consider checking your insecurity and paranoia at the door. It's not always personal and, Gary, it's honestly rarely - if ever - all about you.

If they killed him because they perceived him to be gay then this is indeed a hate crime. Whether he was or not doesn't matter.

If they killed him because they perceived him to be gay then this is indeed a hate crime. Whether he was or not doesn't matter.
I agree, Lori. but that's if they killed him because they thought he was gay. In my opinion that hasn't really been established.

Instead, three kids had over a week to decide how to spin this to make themselves look better after killing someone. They opted for the "gay panic" defense - which is different from a hate crime.

If it ends up that they truly thought he was gay, I'll be the first one to call it a hate crime. But for now, knowing that everyone who knew him says he wasn't gay - including the people who killed him - I'm a little doubtful. It really seems as if no one perceived him as gay - they just thought it would be a good defense. In other words, when they were killing him I don't picture them calling him a "faggot" or other derogatory name (none of the alleged killers mention anything of the sort in affidavits), I think they just acted in a drunken violent rage.

Which mean it's horrible, brutal and should be punished as far as the law allows, but doesn't make it a hate crime...

A. J. Lopp | June 13, 2007 5:46 PM

I posted on this on April 26 on my personal little, unknown blog at, we'll call it, "www-dot-ajlopp-dot-com" --- and then I asked the central question: "Is this really a hate crime, or is this a set-up for a gay panic defense?"

What's the real answer: We may never know for sure. Eventually, we will hear the decision of a jury about whether these three are the murderers, and whether all three are guilty ... but the jury will never be asked to determine whether this is a hate crime or not.

Why not? Because Indiana has no hate crime law.

So ... whether this was an actual hate crime or not, it is relevant to the public discussion about hate crimes and hate crime laws in Indiana.

If one or more defendants think that they can say, "We committed this crime because the victim was, or we thought the victim was, [choose one: black, white, male, female, gay, straight, transgendered, not transgendered, Christian, non-Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist ... and so on] and get a lighter treatment by the justice system by saying so, then, hate crime law or no hate crime law, it is the justice system that is really on trial.

Does this case call for an Indiana hate crime law? Not necessarily. Is it relevant the to discussion? Absolutely! Should the media cover this case, and all the questions it poses, fully? If they can do so responsibly, I would say that, yes, they should.

Has it been covered as needed? IMHO, probably not.

As Indiana citizens, do we need this debate? Honey, you're reading it!

Gary Welsh | June 13, 2007 6:03 PM

"Relevancy" is in the eyes of the beholder, Jerame. I take a lot of hits for my writing style and my assertive personality. Your opinion is not one I haven't heard before. But I count among those who respect the work I do at my blog and who have communicated it to me, statewide officeholders and their staff, state legislators and their staff, state agency heads and their staff, top executives at major Indiana businesses, attorneys at some of the state's most prestigious law firms, county, city and township officeholders, journalists and, yes, more members of the GLBT community than you can imagine. I shared lunch with three, very well-respected women in our community just today who are big supporters of my blog. If they were the only three people in the world who thought what I wrote was "relevant", I would be happy and content with my work as I am.

That's great, Gary...You do what you do well. No one says you don't. I've complimented you many times. However, it's that you take that style of writing for your blog and use it in your personal correspondences with other bloggers and so forth. It's fine to have a hard-hitting, no holds barred attitude in your blog entries. It's altogether something different when you're treating people who are supposed to be your colleagues with that same condescending and hateful tone.

By accusing Bil of not covering something solely because you are, you're trying to create a blog war/blog competition that just doesn't exist. You have a different audience and a different scope than this blog does. The idea that any editorial decisions on this blog are based on anything to do with your blog is absurd and rather petulant, honestly.

If you really felt it was that important, why didn't you ask Bil to run your post as a guest column since he wasn't covering it adequately himself? Why didn't you ask one of other 16 contributors to cover it? Are you commenting on the blogs of the other bloggers that didn't cover this story and accusing them of these same actions? There are many many other ways to handle these situations, Gary. And you really should get that in check. Attacking your colleagues doesn't engender any desire to collaborate.

What it all boils down to is this:

1. These are two completely different blogs, yours and ours. We're moving toward a national audience and focusing almost exclusively on LGBT/progressive causes. You are a local/state blog that focuses mainly on government, policy, and law. Drawing comparisons in coverage is like apples & oranges in most cases.

2. Being condescending to your fellow bloggers will never get you more links than being nice and being willing to give and take. You have to sometimes convince others of your cause - it's not always apparent that the story is important and that doesn't make the other person stupid. Even if it does, it's not your place to say so.

3. Your blogging style is respectable and works well for what you do. Just don't take it into your interpersonal relations. Blogwhoring a story you've posted is an art. You get the best coverage by spreading the love around working with your fellow bloggers, not attacking them.

Since Bil is intent on disparaging me on national blogs concerning this story, I will simply post the police affidavit in the case, which he has obviously never read or chooses to ignore, and let you decide for yourself whether this was a hate crime:

Hall's body was discovered Sunday, April 22, wrapped in a tarp in the garage at the residence of Garrett Gray on South Bethany Road (also known as County Road 1025 East) ten days after he was last seen.

Police say Hall, Gray and King were drinking at the Gray residence when a fight developed.The following information is taken from the probable cause affidavit filed with Jackson Circuit Court. Readers should be warned that information contained in the court document is graphic and may be offensive to some. The affidavit gives police accounts from interviews from witnesses and thus may only reveal one side of the matter.

Sometime after April 13, John Hodge told police he had information on the disappearance and death of Hall. Indiana State Police Sgt. Rob Bays and Crothersville Police Capt. Vurlin McIntosh interviewed Hodge on Saturday, April 21.

Hodge told police that as he was at work on the evening on April 12, he received a multi-media text message on his cell phone from Garrett Gray. Hodge said the photo showed Hall between Gray and King. Hall had a swollen black eye and a large, swollen lip, Hodge said.

Court documents indicate that about 15 minutes later, Hodge received a cell phone call from Jamie Hendricks who was at the Gray residence. Hodge said Hendricks told him, "They're beatin' the h--- out of that guy". Hodge told police he could hear screaming and yelling in the background and thought he heard Hall yelling "Bitches".

Hodge said Hendricks told him Hall grabbed King in the groin and told him he wanted King to perform oral sex. Hendricks also said Hall made some comment about Gray's deceased mother. Then there was an altercation.

According to Hodge, Hendricks told him that Gray and King were beating Hall and King "went crazy on Hall." Hendricks said he saw king at one point remove his boot and began striking Hall with it.

Hendricks said this incident went on for several hours before Hall was loaded into Gray's pickup and taken to a farm lane off County Road 1025 & 800 S when Hall was left in the ditch.Hodge went to the Gray residence on Friday morning. He said Hendricks began talking about the new camouflage coat that Hall was wearing and wanted to go get the coat. Hodge said Hendricks directed him to where they had dumped Hall and when he pulled up, he saw clothes lying in the ditch. Hodge said he saw a pair of tennis shoes, blue jeans, socks and a camouflage coat.

Hodge then described seeing something in the field that he thought at first was a dead deer. Hodge said he walked towards the object and saw it was a human body. Hodge said he went back and forth a few times before he finally approached the body. Hodge sad the body was completely naked and was severely beaten. He said he recognized the subject to be Aaron Hall and that Hall was dead.

Hodge said he and Hendricks left and went back to Gray's house and told Gray they found Hall and he was dead.Hodge said Gray began vomiting and making statements of what his dad would say when he found out about this incident.

Hodge said he left Gray's house and later received a phone call from Hendricks that the body was moved, wrapped in a blue tarp and taken to Gray's garage.

According to the court document, Garrett Gray told Indiana State Police Sgt. Rob Bays and Jackson County Sheriff's Lt. Darrin Downs that Hall and King came to Gray's residence early in the evening on April 12. Gray said they were drinking beer and whiskey on the second floor of the residence when Hall grabbed King in the groin asking questions whether King had homosexual tendencies.

Gray said these comments caused King to physically assault Hall. Gray said King then left the room and Gray approached Hall to inquire it he was all right. Gray then admitted to striking Hall several times in the eye area causing significant damage.

Gray said King walked back into the room and moved Hall to the couch. According to Gray, King then straddled Hall and began physically assaulting him multiple times with his hands.

The pair moved Hall out onto the deck area of the home where both he and King assaulted Hall again.

Gray said they then dragged Hall down the wooden steps and put him in the bed of Grays Ford Ranger pickup.

With Hall, King and Gray in the bed of the truck, James Hendricks drove the truck south on Bethany Road turning east down a farm lane at the intersection of 800 S.

During the drive south, according to the court document, Gray admitted to asking Hall if he wanted to die tonight. While he said Hall could not really talk, he did hear him say that he did not want to die.

Stopping the truck on the dirt lane, Hall was pulled from the truck bed into a ditch. Gray said King assaulted Hall again and they threw Hall camouflage jacket over the top of Hall body.

Gray said he thought Hall was alive but his breathing was labored. He said Hall would take a breath of air and hold it for a long time before exhaling.

Gray admitted to going back to the scene and Hall was not at the location they left him. He said they later went out and saw Hall dead lying in the field.Gray said several days later they went back to the scene, wrapped Hall's body in a tarp and transported him to Gray's detached garage.

Coleman King was interviewed by Jackson County Sheriff's Dept. Detectives Rob Henley and Bob Lucas telling them that he want to Garret Gray's home around noon on April 12. King said he and James Hendricks, who was also at Gray's home, went to Stop-In Liquors in Crothersville. On their way back to Gray's house they picked up Aaron Hall.

King said they were all drinking beer and whiskey when Hall grabbed him in the groin asking King to perform oral sex.

King said he punched Hall then jumped on him punching him several more times. King said Gray also punched Hall while King held Hall down.

King said Gray also held Hall down while beating him. King said Hall was bleeding, his eye swollen shut and he was spitting up blood.

King said Gray dragged Hall down the stairs by his feet and his head bounced down all of the steps.

King said they loaded Hall into the back of the pick up and continued beating Hall as Hendricks drove south to the dirt farm lane.

King said they pulled Hall from the truck and left him in a ditch. King admitted to striking Hall a few more times. The trio then left Hall in the ditch.

When they returned to Gray's home, Gray started saying that they had to kill him or they will go to jail. King said Gray grabbed a shotgun when they went back to the house.

King said he and Gray went back to the place where they left Hall. King said he did not get out of the truck but didn't see Hall. King said Gray shot the gun twice into the woods and they returned to Gray's residence. (It is not clear from the court document and the postmortem exam included in the affidavit did not indicate whether Hall's body had been shot.)

King said the next day, Gray called him telling him Hall was dead. King told detectives a couple of days later, he, Gray and Hendricks removed Hall's body, wrapped it in a tarp and hid it in Gray's garage.

Gray and King are being held without bond on charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter in the Jackson County Jail. Judge William Vance set Gray's trial date for Oct. 16 with a pre-trail court appearance for July 19.

King's trial date was set for Oct. 23 with a pre-trial appearance scheduled fro July 19.

Hendricks, charged with assisting a criminal act, is being held under a $25,000 bond.

Wilson46201 | June 13, 2007 7:52 PM

I did some checking: Crothersville is near Louisville, KY -- why arent those newspapers covering this story? Both the Indpls and Louisville papers are Gannett-owned and are doubtlessly sharing copy when appropriate.

I'm not a lawyer: I dont know if this would be properly covered under a generic hate crimes law if we had one in Indiana.

Given my own personal life experiences (65yo gay living in the 'hillbilly' part of the innercity) my intuition tells me there was likely some "fooling around" going on amongst the guys...

Bruce Parker II | June 13, 2007 8:27 PM

Wilson,

You should be smacked for saying hillbilly.

Everyone else,

Seems pretty clearly like a hate crime to me. I agree with Gary's perspective on the issue totally. However, I also think its probably okay for it not to be covered on Bilerico. And when Bil did decide to cover it he linked to AI so it seems to not have been covered out of spite but instead out of just not happening.

On a side note I still read AI because despite the comments being frustrating most of the time I think Gary gives amazingly strong coverage of state issues - as Jerame said.

Bruce

I have to continue to disagree Bil. With the facts that we have at this time only (police report) it does appear to be a hate crime, but we have not been given all of the facts yet and unfortunately because the media isn't doing their jobs, you and I have little info to go on.
That in itself is unfortunate and a huge problem. This case does need good media coverage because it is very relevant to the homophobic political climate that we are living in and fighting everyday and I for one am very interested about the direction this case will take.

You obviously don't understand Hate Crimes legislation, it is intended to protect people from REAL OR PERCIEVED ideas about a persons sexuality being the cause of the crime. A person does not have to be Gay to be a victim of a Gay Hate Crime, and if they are using the "Gay Panic" defense, which you errouneously said is not a valid excuse (Do you know how many times that "defense" has gotten someone off with no charges of murder? More than you would think.)

But if these people who committed the crime are trying to use a defense of Gay Panic then there actually has to be some merit to the idea that sexuality played a part in the murder, even if it didn't, the use of the "defense" contradicts anyone who says otherwise.

Bill says:

I don't think that Aaron was killed because his killers though he was gay. From all reports, the alleged killers say that Hall grabbed one of the men's crotches and asked them for oral sex - which sounds a lot like a drunk guy saying, "Suck my dick" - a common put down.

I, personally, believe it more likely that since a week went by before the body was discovered, they came up with an excuse as to why they killed him. The perpetrators knew Hall for a long time and knew he wasn't gay. To suddenly claim that he made a pass at one of them sounds much more like the "gay panic" defense than a hate crime.
This is more of a reason to point out that these kids are tying to use his sexuality as an excuse as to why they killed him, when it's just not true. They killed him while drunk and high and came up with an excuse afterwards. Being "gay" had nothing to do with it, in my opinion.

And I say it's so baffling to see anyone take the word of a murderer or two and believe what they have to say.

And Bill, your "personal view" doesn't have anything to do with the facts of the case, if these people are using any excuse surrounding the "gay" issue, then it falls into the category of hate Crime, even if the actual crime was not motivated by sexuality, the excuse or defense is and thus it makes them liable for a crime based on sexuality.

One really must wonder what type of alternative universe you live in that you "beleive" that YOU know what the motivation is. Do you "know" these people or the people making excuses for them? You just going to accept the word of those who wish to make this "less" than what it was for the sake of their friends?

Their defense tells us their motives, and by their own admissions they committed a Hate Crime. Either they are lying again or they really don't have a clue about the use of that particular defense in relation to a Hate Crime based on sexuality, their defense is an admission of guilt of murder based on sexuality, real or percieved.

Just to be clear, I'm haven't argued the merits of whether or not this is a hate crime, just Gary's assertions regarding why it did or didn't get coverage on bilerico.

But to weight in personally, I think it's possible it's a hate crime, but I'm not certain. I think if it's a BS "gay panic" defense - in other words, if the boys are using "he came on to me" in hindsight to try to gain sympathy with the jury - it's not a hate crime and it does disservice to hate crimes advocacy to call it as such.

It is definitely relevant to the hate-filled, anti-gay environment that exists in this state no matter what. But I think the media is rather numb to the "we killed him because he came onto us" crimes. The "gay panic" defense is used frequently to exploit anti-gay sentiment in the jury pool.

I'm not saying I know if that's the case here, but that's what Bil seems to think and it's not outside the realm of possibility. We run the risk of cheapening our legitimate argument in favor of hate crimes legislation if we aren't careful. But if this is indeed a hate motivated crime, we'll all have Gary to thank for keeping the issue alive.

I just don't know. All the facts aren't out there and if there is legitimate doubt that the "gay panic" defense is bogus, it's definitely too early to sound the alarms.

He was a middle-aged, white, straight man and the last I checked, hate crimes legislation was about protecting members of a minority group when someone commits a crime intended to intimidate other members of the community. This simply doesn't fit the definition of a hate crime.

I hope I'm not too late to this conversation, but it doesn't matter whether he was actually gay or not.

I don't know if this particular case is a hate crime or not, but minority status isn't the issue. If you check the FBI's latest statistics from 2005 there were 935 anti-WHITE hate crime incidents recorded, 58 anti-PROTESTANT hate crime incidents recorded, and 23 anti-HETERO incidents recorded.

The law is an equal protection law, meaning that it protects on the basis of race, religion, etc. regardless of race, religion, etc. Also, the law protects based on actual or perceived race, religion, sexuality, etc.

The question of whether this case is a hate crime or not depends on whether Hall was murdered because of his perceived sexuality. I don't know whether the evidence provides support. I'd prefer to see something more conclusive before I assume this particular case is a hate crime or not. Personally, I'm not willing to commit either way.

But it seems to me that the fact that the defense is going with a gay panic defense is practically an admission that they thought he was gay -- whether he really was or not.

Posted by: jerame | June 13, 2007 10:09 PM


Well, I agree with some of what you say, but if these people are using the defense that it was because of a "gay Panic" then it doesn't matter what the actual events were. They are using sexuality as their defense, which means that sexuality was a component of the crime, how can one argue that it had nothing to do with sexuality, but then the perpetrators use sexuality as a defense? It cannot be both.

As for them knowing he wasn't gay, as Bill gives as reason that this might not be a hate crime, well, let's be honest here, how do we know that he wasn't gay and that people just didn't know it? From my own personal experience I can testify that not everyone I knew growing up, or even as an adult knew that I am gay. I was active at 16 but didn't tell anyone I knew from my small home town untill I was well into my 20's. So, if they use the defense that he came on to them, could there be the possibility that he was gay and noone knew until he came on to them while totaly inebriated, or could he have bi-sexual tendencies that he acted on while drunk and high? And who are all these people saying they KNEW for a fact what this man's sexuality was? If he was bi- and came on to them, or even if he was straight and grabbed someones crotch, there would still be the thought in the attackers mind that there was some type of non straight sexuality at play, and hate crimes covers REAL OR PERCIEVED, even if it is real or percieved while under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

I've just been around too long to believe all thoise people who swear they knew he wasn't gay, or that that really wasn't the reason. For goodness sake, even the killers say it was because he was gay and came on to them, are we just to discount their admission by their defense because someone else says otherwise?

And the fact of the matter is that Hate Crimes Legislation will completely eliminate any ability to use this as a defense again in the future, weather as a true defense or one used to motivate sympathy from a jury.

I'll weigh in again... Gary, regardless of your aspersions as to my motives, I'm not disparaging you. I'm disagreeing with you. That's okay - and doesn't make us enemies - just friends who don't agree about something. I read the affidavits, on your site I might add.

The point to my post was why the Indianapolis media wasn't covering the case. To sum up, it's not clear that this is truly a hate crime or "just" a senseless murder. It happened about as far away from Indianapolis as you can get without leaving the state. The closest media market is Louisville - not Indy. I don't think this is some sort of sinister conspiracy by the mainstream media to silence the story. It's just not a convenient story to pigeonhole and is outside of the circulation area. In the day of outsourcing news editing and reporters fleeing the Star, it's no big surprise that the story hasn't been covered.

This story is worthy of coverage, it is worth discussing, and it could use more media coverage. I just don't think that it amounts to a hate crime from what we know now. As Burnsey says above (taken out of context): "I say it's so baffling to see anyone take the word of a murderer or two and believe what they have to say." These kids had over a week to make up a "defense." By buying into the hate crimes angle, we're all taking their word as a given. I think we should investigate this fully before calling it a hate crime.

Because if we start calling it a hate crime and it isn't, we'll have done even more damage to the cause. If this is just a "gay panic" defense thought up by some misguided idiots, the right wing will use every opportunity to point to this as "they want to call everything a hate crime." We need a hate crimes law in Indiana - messing up our chances based on the murky motives of drunken, violent, redneck kids is a possibility; it's a dangerous case to try and classify so easily.

One last thing, let me explain why the "perceived" orientation argument isn't going anywhere with me - I don't think that was how they perceived him. I have no insider info, I've just read the newspaper stories, affidavits, and Gary's site. No one else has said that Hall was gay at all. No friends, no family, no exes, no random tricks, no one. Everyone has said he wasn't. And from what I've read, it doesn't seem likely they spent that many hours beating Hall and calling him derogatory words for gay men. For them to beat him that long, there has to be more to the story... Something like drugs or grudges... And until we find that out in court, we're just taking the word of "a murderer or two" as they try to influence any possible jurors.

I actually agree with Allen here,

...it is the justice system that is really on trial.

Under no circumstances is "gay panic" a defense. And if they are allowed to walk because of it, that'll be the travesty of justice. There won't be a need to argue over hate crimes definitions then...

Lynn David | June 14, 2007 12:04 AM

My own opinion is that this is a rather poor case to put forward as reasoning for hate crimes law concerning sexual orientation in Indiana. Prior to this I (as Anonymous @ 1:33 AM EST) commented on AI, towit:

From the WTHR article:
Police say on April 12th, Hall and the three suspects were drinking at Gray's house. The suspects told police Hall grabbed Coleman King and questioned his sexuality. That set off the deadly beating.

"And they're saying what's why they killed him. Because he was gay. And he wasn't gay," said Thomas Hall.

Excerpting from that article: "Hall grabbed... and questioned his sexuality. That set off the beating."

His brother, Thomas Hall, and you, AI, have missed the point. Aaron Hall was in the role of the bigot there and his one killer, Garrett Gray, was the one accused of a non-straight sexuality. Aaron Hall was not killed because they thought he was gay; he was killed because he made such an accusation against a fellow with two friends willing to back him up.

This murder occurred because all the parties, including Hall, were homophobically minded. While I think hate-crimes legislation should be enacted, I find this to a very poor case to use to show that need.

Gary Welsh (AI) answered (getting the time a bit off):

Quite to the contrary, anon 1:38. You have a group of friends turning on one of their own friends because of the fear of being perceived as being gay. This was exactly the problem in the Matthew Shepard case. The killers believed they were perceived as being gay because Shepard chose them to hang out with and showed sexual interest in them. That is typically how these cases happen. Until you've had the best friend in the world turn on you and lash out violently at you because they learned you were gay, you will never appreciate this.

I didn't answer this, because other things in my life were taking me away from my slow dial-up Internet connection. First off Gary, back in 1968 in a medium sized Hoosier town at the age of 14 I confided to one of my best friends that I was "homosexual." The stream of hate speech I got back from him, a life-long friend, struck me worse than any fist or knives could ever do. It started the construction of my closet.

Twice in my youth I was attacked by persons hurling the normal epithets and a third time might qualify also (though I got called a "dirty catlikker" also that time). Every time the attack came from behind to my head/neck. One attack was so brutal that were I not walking with another person who stopped it, I think I would not have the life I have now. As it was the first blow was forceful enough to knock me down to the ground, and the assailant - who I never saw and did not know - got in several more punches to my head before being dragged off of me.

One other time occurred while returning from my organ lessons one night (hey, our Hoosier small-town was supposed to be safe). Walking down the sidewalk about 4 blocks from my home three slightly older high school boys (one I knew) came up behind me and started berating me. Two flanked me, the third who was wearing brass-knuckles was pacing behind me started hitting the back of my head. "What's a matter, f---t. Do you need your mommy?." I picked up speed after that first blow, luckily the 7 or 8 that followed managed only to be somewhat glancing. When I found a house and porch which were lighted I ran up on it declaring myself home. I never did tell my mother why she had to pick me up at a house not 3 blocks from our own. More nails in my closet.

Now Aaron Hall was not me, not Matthew Shepard. Aaron Hall was any old straight man questioning the sexuality of Coleman King in a crude way. Aaron Hall thus was evidently just as homophobically bigotted as King who murdered him. King had no perception of Hall as gay, rather it was King's own sexuality which was in question in front of his two friends. Maybe it might be some sort of cosmic karmic joke that the death of a homophobic bigot is used to lead to an Indiana hate-crime law, but I just think there are better reasons out there.

Bil, keep your conviction, stay strong.

How many drug-related murders involve stripping a victim down?

How does their "gay panic" defense not implicate a hate crime? They basically admit that they killed him because they thought he was gay and coming on to them.

I wonder, isn't the same thing going on in all the examples given and in this case?

People who beat random or known gay people on the street are doing so because they see those gay people as an affront to their own (hetero)sexuality... even if words have never been exchanged.

This is, in essence, the same situation that killed Aaron Hall. He threatened another man's sexuality and in doing so, was beaten and tortured in ways often seen in other hate crimes cases. The message was, "anybody who questions my sexuality deserves to die." Aaron Hall was killed out of hate, homophobia, and an effort to put him in his place.


beergoggles | June 14, 2007 12:48 PM

The 'gay panic' defense is a hate crime. It entails a violent reaction based on the percieved or real sexual orientation of the victim. As such, it falls well within the confines of the hate crime law. The reason you don't have 'black panic' and 'jew panic' is because those classes are already included in current hate crime law and the moment anyone brings up a defense like that, additional charges of hate crime bias can be added to their sentence.

The only reason 'gay panic' still works as a defense in some states is because we don't have a federal hate crime law covering gays.

Sorry Bil, having read more and more of the OFFICIAL reports, I think you're dead wrong on this one.

I think you have come to realize that and are now trying to soften the all knowing, absolute and definitive tone that you used in your earlier pronouncements that this WAS NOT a hate crime.

Now you're saying that you don't know and that it might have been or might not have been, we don't know enough to say right now.

Frankly my friend, that's where you should have started out, not where you should have ended up.

It's time to step up, be a man and just say that you made too many absolute statements without having enough facts to be so definitive.

Hopefully the court will hear the facts and justice will be served.

"The message was, 'anybody who questions my sexuality deserves to die.'"

I find that to be a very authentic scenario. I grew up in a VERY homophobic family and atmosphere (lived near Beech Grove most of my life) as a young adult. Grabbing someone's crotch, isn't something you do, even in jest, not even drunk. It just isn't something that good ole boys do. It was a given in the circles that I ran, that something like that would not only get you beat up, but marked as gay forever.

I'm kind of surprised that anyone on here that is gay is making statements of his known gayness. Do you know any gays or lesbians that live in Crothersville? If you were gay, do you think you'd let it be known?

Had I been murdered previous to 1997, no one would have known I was cross dressing or my feelings about my gender. You CANNOT assume his sexuality based on what was known in the community around him.

As far as Crothersville not being in close enough range for coverage, I think a quick Google search will dispel the notion that it's too far away to cover.

A hate crime under HR 1592 happens when someone "willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability of any person to any person,"

I have no doubt that the reason that this ISN'T being covered in the media is politically motivated. Most of us in Indianapolis remember how hard it was to get the HRO passed because of all the Christian rhetoric that was thrown around. The rhetoric that surrounds HR 1592 (now S. 1105) is that magnified x10000000 fold.

A. J. Lopp | June 14, 2007 9:54 PM

As a Hoosier who lives about 25 miles northwest of Louisville, I'd like to say that it is my impression that the hate crime angle was covered more thoroughly by Indianapolis media than by Louisville media. [I need to be careful here, because obviously I don't view all the TV newscasts in either market. But I do pay nearly daily attention to the TV news traffic when I'm in the Louisville area.]

As I recall, Louisville TV covered this case daily for about the first week after Hall's body was found in the garage. The hate crime aspect was reported for one or two days near the end of that week. Since then, the coverage of the Hall murder has been scattered and the hate crimes angle is virtually dead.

I even emailed a TV reporter who was covering this story, including some links to the Indianapolis coverage and a link to AdvanceIndiana. She emailed back saying that WAVE-3 (NBC in Louisville) and WTHR-13 (NBC in Indy) often "team up" on stories, and she would be sure that her news desk was aware that the hate crime coverage [meaning, generated by Indy interviews, I gather] was available.

While inconclusive, this indicates to me that, at least in Louisville, someone has made a decision not to cover the hate crimes angle any more than just mentioning it.

"Why" is anyone's guess ... but I expect that Marti's comment above is on the right track, that they are not exploring the hate crime aspect due to fear of offending right-wing viewers.

I am very disappointed with your view on this case. I work with people in Crothersville. I am very protective of my sexual orientation because of intolerant comments made about homosexuals in general. REDNECK does not even come close to what Crothersville is all about. If someone is killed because they are perceived to be Jewish is this a Hate Crime?? If a person were perceived to be gay, wouldn't this be the same thing. I used to respect you and your views and would have backed you up 100%, but I think you are DEAD wrong on this one. It is not too obvious why we as the gay community can not get anything done for gay rights, when we can not even find a united front on any gay issue. Not only do we have to fight the republicans, the homophobic bigots; we have to fight ourselves. We are doomed to live a sub level life. I don't know if Aaron Hall was gay, straight or bi, I know he had trouble with the law and drugs, but no one deserves to be tortured and left to die. We NEED to stand up for Aaron, as he can not do it for himself. GOD BLESS AMERICA (unless you are gay or perceived to be gay)

I've responded to the many comments on this post with another post on the main site: Aaron Hall: Gays as the scapegoat.

Just for the record though - it's okay to disagree. It makes the discussion longer and more thorough.

You are correct. We do need to stand up for Aaron Hall. I'm concerned about the good old boy network in that area, and the perps getting off lightly because of who they know, i.e. my dad is deputy coroner.....