Trial in gay Dallas man’s murder set for Jan. 24, but DA’s office warns that’s ‘subject to change’

Seth Winder

We received a message Monday from Karen Winder, the stepmother of Seth Winder, who’s awaiting trial on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of Richard Hernandez, a gay man from Dallas who was brutally dismembered in September 2008.

Karen Winder, who wrote a book about the case, was wondering if we’d heard whether the trial — which has been repeatedly delayed for a variety of reasons — is expected to go forward as scheduled on Jan. 24.

“The prosector has never responded to me and [defense attorney Derek] Adame won’t talk to Rodney [Seth's father] or me and we have tried to contact him by phone and e-mail in the past,” Karen Winder wrote. “I could try to call his office again, but I doubt he will talk to us, though he talks to Seth’s mother.”

In response to Winder’s message, we contacted Jamie Beck, first assistant district attorney for Denton County, where the crime occurred. Here’s what Beck said:

“It is scheduled to go to trial Jan. 24, that week. Voir dire would probably be most of the day Monday, with testimony likely to begin Tuesday the 25th,” Beck said. “We are prepared to have that as an official trial date. However, those are always subject to change, and the reason why I have a little bit of hesitation this time, is because we’re able to access the visitation log at the jail, and his attorney has not been to see him in quite some time. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything — they can communicate in other fashions — but we’re just a little skeptical about his readiness for trial here in just a couple of weeks. But, we’re planning to go. There’s been no motion for a continuance filed at this point in time, and certainly none ruled on. So as of right now, it is a solid trial date. That’s always subject to change, and that’s the best I can give you right now.”

We’ve left a message for Adame and we’ll update once we hear back.

—  John Wright

South Bend, Ind. council puts off gay-rights ordinance

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A divided South Bend City Council has put off a vote on a proposed ordinance extending employment discrimination protection to gays and lesbians.

About 200 people packed the meeting room Monday night, July 26 as council members heard two hours of public debate about the proposal.

Councilman Oliver Davis, one of the measure’s three sponsors, sought the continuance when it became clear he lacked the five votes needed for a majority on the nine-member council.

Opponents of the measure wore red stickers declaring, “Special Status (equals) Special Rights,” while supporters wore white buttons that read, “30-10 Yes!” in reference to the ordinance’s number.

Patrick Mangan, executive director of Citizens for Community Values, a conservative group opposing the measure, argued the proposal would undermine the rights of employers and that there was no evidence of current unfair treatment of homosexuals.

“They have not been treated intolerantly,” Mangan said. “In fact, they have been treated tolerantly, even when a majority of society disagrees with their lifestyle.”

Supporters urged the council to adopt the ordinance, which also would make discrimination against bisexual and transgendered people illegal.

“South Bend describes itself as a 21st century city and a part of being a 21st century city is recognizing the growing diversity of the community,” supporter Abby Smith said.

Former Gov. Joe Kernan, a former mayor of South Bend, told council members failure to adopt a gay rights ordinance would hurt the city’s image.

“The failure to pass 30-10 sends the message that we as a community are intolerant and we are better than that,” Kernan said.

The South Bend Tribune reported that councilwoman Karen White is the swing vote among the nine-member council. She said the proposal’s language was too vague and that she wanted more time for city attorneys to work on it before she decided how she would vote.

Concerns were raised about how religious organizations would be covered by the proposed ordinance, which the council voted 5-4 to table indefinitely.

“I don’t mind taking the time to review the religious exemptions,” said Davis, the ordinance sponsor. “I wanted us to be clear that for 34 years the Human Rights Coalition has understood what the religious language was when it came to other discriminations, but if that means we need to take some more time to see how that applies, I’m OK with that.”

—  John Wright