Waymon Hudson

Killer of Ryan Skipper Found Guilty in Florida

Filed By Waymon Hudson | February 28, 2009 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, The Movement
Tags: David Brown Jr, Florida, hate crimes against LGBT people, Joseph Bearden, Ryan Skipper

In March of 2007, Ryan Skipper was stabbed 19 times and left to die on a dirt road in rural Polk County, Florida. He was only 25. His killers drove around in his blood-soaked car, bragging how they had killed a gay man.

11287212.jpgOne of the two killers, Joseph Bearden, was found guilty of second-degree murder and robbery this week. The other killer, David Brown Jr., is still awaiting trial.

During the trial, a prosecution witness revealed that shortly after the killing, Bearden said,

He felt he was doing the world a favor by getting rid of one more faggot.

Most of you know by now that talking about hate crimes are hard for me. They always hit a very personal place- from Lawrence King to Simmie Williams to Sanesha Stewart to all the other lives lost to hate.

rskipper08.jpgBut Ryan's murder hits close to home because I have gotten to know his family here in Florida. I worked with them on LGBT various projects, hugged them as I've wept when they've told their story to crowds of people, and held Ryan's picture at memorials for them. Through them and their love, I've gotten a glimpse of Ryan, who he was and what a huge loss his murder is for all of us.

Ryan's family members have been amazing pillars of strength and outspoken activists. They have been advocates for stronger federal hate crimes legislation, as well as traveling the country to speak on the need for acceptance of LGBT people. They have been active in lobbying for the Matthew Shepard Act.

I know this decision won't bring them justice. I also know it won't stop the work they do to bring attention to hate against LGBT people.

Whenever I write about Ryan or talk about his murder, my mother always calls me crying. She tells me she sees me in the picture- in the smiling face, the hope in his eyes. It's a story echoed by families I meet across this state and country when they see not only Ryan, but the love his family has for him. Like in any crime motivated by anti-LGBT bigotry, it could be any one of us in that picture.

I'd like to thank Ryan's family for sharing him with us, and for sharing their grief, anger, and indomitable spirits with the world. I know that for as long as I have breath, I'll be right beside them whenever I can, fighting for change and for Ryan's memory.

Watch the trailer for "Accessory to Murder: Our Culture's Complicity in the Death of Ryan Skipper" and go to the website to purchase the video:


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And after sentencing, he swore he didn't know what was going to happen to Skipper. It was just a robbery! He was forced into involvement in something he had no part in!

A lawyer had to tell him to apologize. He gave a non-apology apology. Didn't even acknowledge the victim.

A group of our "peers" (read: a bunch of straights that don't give a damn about us) reduced his sentence. Had it been the archetypal woman victim, or a straight husband with a family? The murederer would've gotten convicted on first degree murder.

He ought to have received the death penalty; the jury decided it was better to give him a lifetime of free food and housing at the expense of taxpayers.

This is why I don't even bother to read into hate crimes. I am likely to have my day ruined.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | March 1, 2009 12:10 AM

As free as we are to put people to death we diminish the value of life itself. Florida still does put people to death as does Texas, but in far lower numbers. The website indicates that there has not even been an execution in Florida since 1995 and the average wait from trial to execution is nearly 14 years. There have only been 67 persons executed since 1979 in Florida when it was again legalized.

They will actually do much more time in prison convicted of second degree murder (25 years+ based upon current stats) and will be released as third class citizens anyway.

A stupid, ignorant crime performed by stupid, ignorant losers. Thank you Waymon, we should remember our victims, and the fools their murderers were.

It feels good to know criminals like this get a death sentence. I believe in the alternative, life imprisonment is a greater punishment.

Agreed. I'm not upset that he didn't get the death penalty - it's barbaric and life in prison is a much more horrendous punishment.

But second degree murder? Why not 1st? Do you know, Waymon? What is Lucrece referencing by "reduced his sentence?"

A jury found Bearden guilty of second-degree murder, theft of a motor vehicle, accessory after the fact to robbery with a weapon, tampering with evidence, and dealing in stolen property.

Bearden was sentenced to life in prison. As for the second degree charge, this is the info I found:

"Prosecutors charged him with first degree murder, but jurors could not find him guilty on that count, or a lesser charge of 2nd degree murder with a weapon."

And life in prison is institutionalized abduction. Daily rape at the hands of prisoners, or being killed by fellow inmates, doesn't sound barbaric to you? Psychological torture through removal of freedom?

I said reduced sentence because he was charged with first degree murder, and first degree murder would've given him the death penalty.

And putting people to death doesn't diminish the value of life. What a specious argument. I would expect gay men who have experienced the bullshit right wing mantras to have a little more logical rigor.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | March 2, 2009 8:08 AM

This does not alter the fact that Florida has put no one to death since 1995 anyway and the average wait for the whole 67 people they have executed since 1979 when it was again legalized is 14 years through many appeals. "Life" imprisonment means eligible for parole in XXX years anyway, but they come out older and less likely to be violent. This leads to an important question. Do we want vengence, justice, or rehabilitation?

Robert, The Florida legislature has addressed the question you raise, "[d]o we want vengence, justice, or rehabilitation?" The answer is Florida renamed it's sentencing code to the Florida Punishment Code; has no legislative intent for rehabilitation, except for juvenile offenders where rehabilitation is still the objective.

Here in NYC, two men were just arrested for the Sucuzhanay murder last December, and it's revived the whole capital punishment debate as well.