Trial set in gay man’s 2008 murder

After three years of delays, Seth Winder will be tried next week for  Richard Hernandez’s murder

hernandez.Richard

Richard Hernandez

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

DENTON — More than three years after gay Dallas resident Richard Hernandez disappeared, his accused killer is set to stand trial next week.

Authorities believe the 38-year-old Hernandez was murdered and dismembered inside his Far North Dallas apartment in early September 2008, but they never found his remains.

Seth Lawton Winder, 32, is charged with first-degree murder and faces up to life in prison.

Winder’s trial has been delayed numerous times, but Jamie Beck, first assistant district attorney for Denton County, said this week she’s confident it will go forward next week, with jury selection set for Monday, Nov. 14.

“Everybody wants a swifter and quicker justice, but you’ve got to do it right,” Beck said, referring to the delays. “Bottom line, we want justice, so if that means it takes a while, then so be it.”

Rudy Araiza, who was a close friend of Hernandez’s and is also gay, said he’s looking forward to Winder’s trial.

“I hope that we get justice finally after three years of waiting,” Araiza said. “For me it’ll be, I hope, closure.”

Araiza said he hopes Winder receives the maximum sentence of life in prison.

“Just as long as he’s away and out of the public view, and away where he won’t be able to hurt anyone else,” Araiza said.

Winder’s father, Rodney Winder, agreed, saying he wants “justice served and Seth away where he cannot hurt anyone.”

Rodney Winder and his wife, Karen Dilbeck, have said they repeatedly tried to get help for Seth, who suffers from schizophrenia, in the months prior to Hernandez’s murder. Dilbeck would later publish a book about the case, which was also the subject of an episode of A&E’s The First 48.

A judge initially found Seth Winder incompetent to stand trial, but he’s since been restored to competency.

It’s unclear what type of relationship existed between Hernandez and Winder. But police recovered a digital camera containing pornographic images of Winder that were taken inside Hernandez’s apartment.

When Hernandez failed to show up at his job at Wal-Mart, authorities went to the apartment on Rosemeade Parkway and discovered large amounts of blood on the floor, walls and couch — in addition to tissue from internal organs in the bathtub.

Police concluded that Winder placed the rest of Hernandez’s remains in a Dumpster, which had already been emptied and its contents buried in a landfill.

Purchases made on Hernandez’s debit card led police to Winder. They found blood-covered evidence including a sword at two campsites where Winder had been staying.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Jury deliberates fate of homophobic reggae artist Buju Banton, who faces life in prison

The Associated Press is reporting that closing arguments have been given in the case of reggae singer Buju Banton’s drug case.

The 37-year-old Banton is accused of conspiring with two other men in setting up a drug deal in December of 2009. His album “Before the Dawn” won a Grammy for best reggae album this week, and he remains wildly popular in his native Jamaica.

A jury deadlocked in his first trial last year. If convicted of all the charges, he faces up to life in prison.

Every seat in the federal courtroom in Tampa was filled as the lawyers gave their closing arguments. Many of the seats were taken by Banton’s friends and fans, including well-known reggae artists Gramps Morgan and Wayne Wonder. During the lunch break, about a dozen supporters held hands and prayed for Banton in the court hallway.

“I’m fighting for my freedom,” said Banton, whose given name is Mark Myrie. “I’m fighting for my life.”

Banton is notorious for his strongly homophobic songs calling for the torture and murder of gay men — or “batty boys” as they are known in his native Jamaica. He came to Dallas in 2009 on tour to face a protest at his concert at the Deep Ellum reggae venue The Palm Beach Club.

—  Rich Lopez

DeLay, who warned U.S. would ‘go down’ because of gay marriage, is brought down by a lesbian

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg

If case you missed it, former House Republican Majority Leader Tom “the Hammer” DeLay was convicted Wednesday on felony charges of money laundering for illegally funneling corporate dollars into Texas state legislative races in 2002.

DeLay, who represented a Houston-area House district from 1984 to 2005, faces up to life in prison but says he will appeal the verdict.

DeLay had a decidedly anti-gay voting record in Congress, receiving the worst possible score of zero from the Human Rights Campaign in each of his last two sessions. A year before his indictment and resignation, DeLay spoke on the House floor in support of a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage:

“This nation knows that if you destroy marriage as the definition of one man and one woman, creating children so that we can transfer our values to those children and they can be raised in an ideal home, this country will go down,” DeLay said.

“So believe me, everybody in this country’s going to know how you voted today,” he said, his anger mounting with every word. “They’re going to know how you stood on the fundamental protection of marriage and the definition of marriage. And we will take it from here and we will come back, and we will come back, and we will come back. We will never give up. We will protect marriage in this country.”

Given DeLay’s record on gay rights, perhaps there’s some poetic justice to the fact that the district attorney who obtained the conviction, Rosemary Lehmberg, is an out and proud lesbian. Lehmberg, a Democrat, was elected to replace Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who initiated DeLay’s prosecution, after Earle retired in 2008. Before that, Lehmberg served as Earle’s first assistant for 10 years in the office that’s home to the state’s Public Integrity Unity, which is charged with investigating corruption in government.

Of course, DeLay’s prosecution had no more to do with Lehmberg’s sexual orientation than it did with her party affiliation, and none of the stories we’ve seen about his conviction even mention it.

Which is why we thought we would.

“I think that I serve as an individual who demonstrates that sexual orientation is not particularly relevant, except to your personal life, and therefore a lot of the homophobia and bias is unwarranted — the fear that people have,” Lehmberg told us following her election in 2008.

—  John Wright