Kerry Max Cook in the news, in different ways

Theatre 3, which planned a full run of the play The Exonerated in its Theatre Too space downstairs, has been forced to cut back due to construction issues. Now, it will run for only three staged readings on May 18 and 19 at 8 p.m. and a May 20 matinee at 2:30 p.m.

One of the persons profiled in this show — which chronicles the experiences of six death row inmates later exonerated — is Kerry Max Cook, pictured.

I have an odd relationship with Kerry. I knew nothing about his alleged crime — supposedly murdering a woman in Tyler in 1977 — until I moved to Dallas in 1990. At that time, he was undergoing a retrial in Dallas, and the story was covered almost daily on the front page of the Dallas Morning News. His image — the shock-white brush-cut and stony look — was memorable, and when he was re-convicted, I thought, “Just as well. He probably did it.” Then in 1997, he entered a plea deal, pleading “no contest” in exchange for a sentence of time-served. (The Exonerated followed a decade later.)

Everyone seems to be in agreement that Kerry didn’t do it. Certainly, that was my conclusion, after I met and interviewed him. Kerry came by my office in 2005 or 2006, and I wrote a cover story for the Voice about his ordeal. (His hair was darker by then, but the face was unmistakeable.) Kerry was a friendly fellow, who spoke convincingly about his innocence.

One thing he said to me was that he always assumed he was targeted in part because he frequented gay bars in Dallas in the 1970s, and was therefore labeled an “undesirable” by the cops in Tyler. (Tyler has a pretty crappy history when it comes to gay stuff.) Kerry has since married a woman.

I really liked Kerry, but truth is, “exonerated” has always been a slight overstatement. Kerry wasn’t deemed “innocent,” just freed and the death penalty against him abandoned.

But Kerry doesn’t wanna let it go. He’s back in court in Smith County, asking to conduct more DNA evidence to conclusively establish his innocence, as reported in the Texas Tribune. Personally, I hope he wins. And I hope it makes people reconsider the death penalty.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Appeals court rejects ‘homophobic panic’ claim

Lawyers for Robert Van Hook, convicted of murdering gay man in 1985, told court psychological reports could have supported his claims of mental disease

Van-Hook.Robert

Robert Van-Hook

LISA CORNWELL  |  Associated Press
editor@dallasvoice.com

CINCINNATI — A federal appeals court on Tuesday, Oct. 4 upheld an Ohio man’s death penalty for killing a man he met in a gay bar in 1985, rejecting claims that prosecutors violated his rights by not providing psychological reports showing he may have been motivated by “homophobic panic.”

A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed a lower court’s ruling upholding the death penalty for Robert Van Hook, 51. The panel also rejected claims of ineffective counsel.

Van Hook’s attorney, Keith Yeazel, said Tuesday that he will either appeal to the full 6th Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court after he has a chance to review the ruling.

The Supreme Court in November 2009 reversed an earlier decision by the 6th Circuit panel that had found ineffective trial counsel, and the panel said Tuesday that it was bound by the high court’s decision.

Van Hook’s latest appeal argued that the psychological reports showing he may have been motivated by “homophobic panic,” or rejection of his homosexual urges, rather than robbery, could have been used to support his claim of mental disease. The reports also would have been used to counter the murder element of “specific intent to cause the death of another person” and the aggravated robbery factor contributing to the death penalty, the appeal stated.

Van Hook claimed temporary insanity, but never denied strangling and then stabbing David Self to death at his Cincinnati apartment.

Prosecutors said he lured Self to the apartment with the intention of robbing him. He then mutilated Self’s body with a kitchen knife, hiding the murder weapon in the corpse before fleeing to Florida, where he was arrested and confessed.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

National news briefs • 09.02.11

Judge puts trial on hold in case against Dan Choi

WASHINGTON — Dan Choi may be closer to having charges against him dropped after the judge in his case put the trial on hold this week.

Choi, a gay former Army lieutenant, was arrested for handcuffing himself to the White House fence in November 2010 to protest “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Choi was dismissed from the Army under the policy.

Choi was arrested two other times earlier in 2010 for similar White House protests. However, charges in those instances were brought against him in local court.

This case is being tried in federal court and he faces six months in jail and a fine. Choi’s attorney claims he is being treated differently and harshly prosecuted because is outspoken and gay.

In putting the trial on hold, the judge said that he believes Choi has shown — at least preliminarily — that he is being treated differently.

The government prosecutor, Angela George, said that she plans to have the judge’s actions reviewed by a higher court. She said that Choi is being treated no differently than the other protesters. Choi attorney Robert Feldman said that he believes the judge’s actions mean that his client has “effectively won the case” and charges will eventually be dismissed.
The trial is on hold for 10 days.

Others arrested in the case accepted a plea deal of no jail time in exchange for pleading guilty with the condition of no further arrest for four months. Choi rejected that deal.

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Death penalty recommended in case of man who murdered family

LYNDON, Kan. — A jury recommended the death penalty for James Kraig Kahler who was on trial in Kansas for killing four family members in November 2009. Final sentencing by the judge is set for Oct. 11.

Kahler is the former city utilities director in Weatherford.

After 23 years of marriage, his wife filed for divorce. She was a fitness trainer at a Weatherford gym and had been seeing another woman she worked with after Kahler tried to initiate a three-way sexual relationship with his wife and the other woman.

Kahler moved to his parent’s home outside Topeka weeks before the murder.

His son Sean, now 12, testified that he saw his father shoot his mother.

In addition to his wife, Kahler killed her grandmother and their two daughters, ages 18 and 16. Sean testified that he was not threatened during the shooting rampage.

The defense argued that the affair affected Kahler’s state of mind. They argued for life in prison because, they said, he was out of control emotionally and suffering deep depression when he committed the murders.

Under Kansas law, mental illness is only a defense if it prevents the defendant from forming the intent to kill or acting with premeditation.

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Jury unable to reach verdict in trial of teen accused of killing classmate

LOS ANGELES — A jury was unable to reach a verdict in deliberations that began on Monday, Aug. 29 in the murder case of Brandon McInerney, who is accused of shooting his gay classmate, Lawrence King, in their computer class in Oxnard, Calif., in February 2008. The judge declared a mistrial.

In closing arguments, the prosecution said that McInerney, whose attorneys claimed shot King in a panic after King repeatedly flirted with him, was lying in wait and planned the killing ahead of time. They claimed the defense was using gay panic as an excuse.

The defense said McInerney was in a dissociative state when he killed King. They claim he was not completely aware of what he was doing and said he grew up in a violent household and was sexually harassed by King.

One of the jurors is a college student who started classes this week. Ventura County Judge Charles Campbell is allowing the jury to deliberate around her schedule.
The trial was moved to Los Angeles because of pre-trial publicity.

The murder took place when McInerney was 14, but he is being tried as an adult. Now 17, he faces up to a 50-year prison term, although jurors may consider a conviction of voluntary manslaughter with a 14 to 21 year sentence.

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Prosecutors: Man filmed with Clementi should stay anonymous

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Prosecutors say the identity of a man recorded on a webcam in a gay intimate encounter with a New Jersey university student who killed himself should remain a secret.

The Middlesex County prosecutor’s office filed a motion Monday, Aug. 29, asking a judge to withhold the name of the man, identified only as M.B.

The Star-Ledger newspaper of Newark reports the request came in response to a motion filed by lawyers for Dharun Ravi, who is accused of spying on Rutgers University roommate Tyler Clementi and is charged with bias intimidation and invasion of privacy.

Clementi killed himself last September after his encounter with M.B. was transmitted online. His suicide sparked national discussion about bullying.

Ravi’s lawyers say they believe M.B. has information that could help their client’s case but they don’t know his name.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 31, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Cult leader kills 4-year-old for being gay

Peter Lucas Moses, 27, right, faces capital murder charges after allegedly shooting to death 4-year-old Jaden Higganbothan, left, because Moses thought the child was gay. Moses lived in Durham, N.C., with several women, including Jaden’s mother, who considered Moses their husband and called him ‘Lord.’

A Durham, N.C. man is on trial for capital murder after he allegedly shot a 4-year-old boy in the head because he thought the boy might be gay.

Peter Lucas Moses Jr., 27, is also accused of murdering a young woman who tried to escape from the house where she had been living with Moses and several other women, who called Moses “Lord.” Prosecutors have said they plan to seek the death penalty against Moses. Three of his “wives” are also charged with murder and with being accessories to murder.

According to information presented in court by prosecutors on Friday, July 8, Moses lived in a house in Durham with several women and their children — most of whom were fathered by Moses. But 4-year-old Jaden Higganbothan had a different father, who had left his mother, Vania Higganbothan Sisk, 25. Because Jaden’s father had left his mother and because Jaden hit one of the other children on the rear a couple of times, Moses decided the boy was gay and that they needed to get rid of him. In fact, prosecutors say, Moses had already told Sisk to get rid of Jaden at least once.

—  admin

What’s Brewing: 3rd El Paso suspect arrested

Ivan Gallardo

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A third suspect has been arrested in a brutal beating outside a gay nightclub in downtown El Paso on May 7. Ivan Gallardo, 17, is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Two other suspects, ages 16 and 19, have also been arrested in connection with the attack outside the Old Plantation, which police say was gang related. The 22-year-old victim, Lionel Martinez, remains in critical condition after suffering a fractured skull and brain swelling. A total of six people reportedly jumped Martinez while he was waiting for a ride, punching him, kicking him and hitting him with a baseball bat. Martinez is straight, but LGBT advocates say it was a hate crime because the suspects were yelling anti-gay slurs, and the FBI is investigating the incident as a possible civil rights violation. Police have increased patrols around the nightclub in the wake of the incident, and an anti-hate crime rally reportedly is planned for next week outside the County Courthouse.

2. Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which calls for the death penalty in some cases, is still alive. The bill is one of three that have been carried over to the new Parliament, which convenes today, after the old Parliament was dissolved without considering them.

3. The Minnesota House is expected to vote today on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The amendment, which would appear on the 2012 ballot, has already cleared the Senate. On Wednesday the House Rules Committee voted 13-12 to approve the amendment. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton opposes the amendment but cannot veto it.

—  John Wright

Ugandan lawmakers hold hearings on anti-gay bill

Supporter says death penalty provision is ‘something we have moved away from,’ but measure expected to pass if it’s voted on this week

GODFREY OLUKYA | Associated Press

KAMPALA, Uganda — A Ugandan parliament committee on Monday held a second day of hearings on a controversial anti-gay bill that attracted international condemnation for its harsh penalties. Lawmakers indicated the bill could be voted on this week.

The bill was first proposed in 2009 but made little progress after a storm of criticism over a death penalty provision in the original bill. A committee meeting last Friday was its first public airing since its proposal 18 months ago.

The bill’s author, David Bahati, told The Associated Press last month that the death penalty provision in the bill was “something we have moved away from.” The bill is now undergoing debate and negotiations, so a new version would likely be presented before a final vote is held.

One of the bill’s backers, an anti-gay pastor named Martin Ssempa, told the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee on Monday that he does not support the death penalty provision. He said instead that gays should face up to seven years in prison.

“The parliament should be given the opportunity to discuss and pass the bill, because homosexuality is killing our society,” Ssempa told the committee.

Retired Anglican Bishop Christopher Senyonjo said the bill will not stop homosexuality but would instead turn Uganda into a police state and could increase the spread of HIV/AIDS because gay Ugandans would fear seeking treatment.

Senyonjo also disputed a common claim by backers of the anti-gay bill, who say school children are being recruited by gays.

“They naturally become so,” he said.

Homosexuality is highly unpopular in Uganda, and pastors in this Christian country speak out loudly against the practice. Bahati has said he thinks the bill would become law if voted on by legislators.

Gay activists say anti-gay sentiment in Uganda has increased since the bill’s introduction. More gays are being harassed because of media attention and because church leaders have been preaching for the bill’s passage.

Bahati’s original bill carried harsh provisions. The original bill would mandate a death sentence for active homosexuals living with HIV or in cases of same-sex rape. “Serial offenders” also would face capital punishment. Anyone convicted of a homosexual act would face life imprisonment.

Anyone who “aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage of acts of homosexuality” would face seven years in prison. Landlords who rent rooms or homes to homosexuals also could get seven years.

Some, all or none of those provision could change during parliament’s negotiations.

The New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said in a statement last week that it was concerned that the “heinous” piece of legislation could become law.

“Governments, world religious and political leaders, and HIV prevention experts have all appealed to Ugandan parliamentarians to put their distaste and fear of LGBT people aside and use their better judgment,” said Cary Alan Johnson, the group’s executive director. LGBT stands for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender.”

Johnson said the bill was being debated now to divert attention from recent political demonstrations in Uganda that have attracted police crackdowns. Human Rights Watch says security forces killed nine people in the recent marches.

Stephen Tashobya, the head of the parliament committee, said it is time legislators give the bill priority. He said a report on the bill would be ready by today and could be presented to parliament by the end of the week.

“Due to public demand the committee has decided to deal with bill,” Tashobya said. “The bill has generated a lot of interest from members of the public and members of parliament and that is why we spared some time deal with before this parliament ends.”

Frank Mugisha, the director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a gay rights group, said that if parliament takes up the bill he believes it will be passed. However, parliament’s session ends this week and it is not clear if there is enough time to deal with the legislation this session.

Bahati has said the bill can be dealt with next session if parliament runs out of time.

—  John Wright

Does U.N. vote mean dark days ahead ?

With a simple majority vote of 9 countries, LGBT people are removed from category of ‘vulnerable populations,’ left exposed to arbitrary execution

Hardy Haberman Flagging Left

The United Nations recently took a vote and with a simple majority of just nine countries, they removed LGBT people from the special protections category of “vulnerable populations.” That category specifically mentions special protection from extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution.

What does this mean? Well, according to the U.N., we are no longer considered worthy of protection against arbitrary execution. In other words, it’s open season on LGBT people in a whole lot of countries.

It is important to note who voted against us: The Russian Federation, China, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi plus a host of Middle Eastern countries joined the majority to remove us from that list.

In the case of the African nations, I cannot fail to mention that the radical right, especially the far-right ministers in this country, have been a big influence. If you will remember, the draconian anti-gay laws in Uganda were in part encouraged by religious groups from the U.S.

Cary Alan Johnson, executive director of the International Gay And Lesbian Human Rights Commission, said, “This vote is a dangerous and disturbing development. It essentially removes the important recognition of the particular vulnerability faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people — a recognition that is crucial at a time when 76 countries around the world criminalize homosexuality, five consider it a capital crime and countries like Uganda are considering adding the death penalty to their laws criminalizing homosexuality.”

Essentially, the vote takes away any power the U.N. might have to protect the lives of LGBT people.

The vote has sent shock waves through the international LGBT community but seems to have had little traction herein the U.S. I suspect that is because much of what the U.N. does is considered unimportant by many Americans.

It’s sad that this body, where crimes against LGBT people have routinely been condemned, has now decided to become silent.

It should be noted who voted to remove LGBT people from this protected group. The list may surprise you:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Botswana, Brunei Dar-Sala, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Comoros, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Two nations that really disturb me are Iraq and Afghanistan. I have been an ardent opponent to the wars the Bush administration started there, and now I have even more reason to hope for a speedy end to our involvement.

Many of the names on this list are “most favored nations,” as far as trade with the U.S., and one in particular is most disturbing since it already grants full rights to LGBT people: South Africa.

I can only hope they did not understand the gravity of what they were signing, but I suspect it may signal a new and more repressive future for the African nation that held the most promise.

My suspicion is that the nation of Benin, which brought the matter up on behalf of the African Nations Group, is planning something dark. I would not be surprised to see a whole new raft of severe laws against LGBT people in these African nations.

It looks like very dark times ahead for LGBT people in Africa and the Middle East. I pray I am wrong.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

If Rick Perry is so ‘fed up,’ why doesn’t he leave?

We weren’t lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Gov. Rick Perry’s new book, Fed Up!, so for now we’ll just have to rely on other media outlets around the state who’ve posted excerpts. Thus far, we haven’t seen any examples of overt gay-bashing by Perry in the book, but we did notice what we’re sure is one of many major factual issues, so we thought we’d go ahead and issue a clarification. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Perry writes the following in Fed Up:

“If you don’t support the death penalty and citizens packing a pistol, don’t come to Texas. If you don’t like medicinal marijuana and gay 
 marriage, don’t move to California.”

This quote is really a variation on something Perry said several years ago, when asked what he would tell gay and lesbian veterans returning from Iraq who wanted to wed: “If there is some other state that has a more lenient view than Texas, then maybe that’s a better place for them to live.” In other words, Perry’s message to gay people is, “If you don’t like how we treat you in Texas, move somewhere else.” And his message to straight people is, “If you hate gay people, move to Texas.”

If Perry really believes that people should only live in states where they agree with all the laws, then we suppose he’s entitled to his opinion. But at the very least, we think he should get his facts straight.

Same-sex marriage isn’t legal in California, governor, and it hasn’t been since November 2008, when voters approved something called Proposition 8. Sound familiar? Yes, marriage was legal briefly during the summer of 2008, and the constitutionality of Prop 8 is currently being challenged in federal court. But no, same-sex marriage is not legal in California, so ultimately your statement doesn’t make much sense. Perhaps what you meant to say was, “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t move to Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont or the District of Columbia.”

Also, if you really hate the federal government so much, governor, we’d suggest you consider moving to a country that’s more in line with your views. We hear Iran is nice.

—  John Wright

Killer who preyed on Montrose gays set to die

Derrick Jackson (TDCJ)

Derrick Jackson is scheduled to be put to death on Tuesday, July 20 for fatally slashing, stabbing and bludgeoning two Houston opera singers in 1988.

Jackson was a predator who preyed on patrons of gay bars in the Montrose area, and one of the victims, Forrest Henderson, had picked him up at one.

“He just picked up the wrong person and brought him back to the house,” Houston homicide Sgt. D.D. Shirley said after Jackson’s arrest.

On the night of the murder Henderson and the other victim, Richard Alan Wrotenbery, attended a rehearsal of Bizet’s Carmen. Wrontenbury, a first-grade music teacher who’d just been through a divorce, was staying with Henderson until he could find another place to live. After the rehearsal, Wrotenbury returned to the apartment while Henderson went to the bars.

Henderson was found naked and face down in his bed. He had been stabbed repeatedly. Wrotenbury was found in another bedroom with his throat slashed. Both had been bludgeoned with a heavy metal bar.

A day later Police spotted someone driving Henderson’s stolen car, and a chase ensued. The driver got away, and it wasn’t until seven years later that investigators used new fingerprint technology to identify Jackson, who was already in prison for aggravated robbery.

Jackson, who maintains his innocence, would become the 15th person executed to death in Texas this year.

—  John Wright

Uganda softening law against gays

Just in time for the holiday season here in the states comes word that Ugandan lawmakers are “softening” proposed legislation that would have called for gays and lesbians to be put to death in some circumstances.

Ugandan officials had earlier denied rumors that the law would be changed to remove the death penalty. Maybe they mean it this time.

Under the original proposal “serial offenders”, and those who commit “aggravated homosexuality”, faced a death sentence. But Ethics and Integrity Minister Nsaba Buturo has told Reuters that the revised law would now probably limit the maximum penalty for offenders to life in prison rather than execution.

“There have been a lot of discussions in government … regarding the proposed law, but we now think a life sentence could be better because it gives room for offenders to be rehabilitated,” Buturo told Reuters. “Killing them might not be helpful.”

Gee, ain’t that kind of them!

—  admin