Pharyngula

Professor Don Belton murdered

An English professor at Indiana University, Don Belton, has been stabbed to death. The fact that he was gay is going to be an unfortunate issue here, since the accused killer is offering as an excuse the claim that Belton had assaulted him.

Of course, Belton was killed in his own home. With a ten-inch long military knife, which I’m sure is a common accessory carried by visitors to professor’s homes. And he was stabbed several times in the front and five or six times in the back, suggesting that he’d assaulted his killer by way of a back flip, trying to batter him with his shoulder blades…his horrifically gay shoulder blades.

At least it sounds like it should be an open-and-shut case at this point, with the killer admitting he’d done it and offering an excuse that should only persuade a purblind brain-damaged homophobe. There won’t be any of those in the Indiana judicial system, I’m sure.

Comments

  1. #1 monado
    December 29, 2009

    It sounds almost like a horrible sort of trolling. Homophobe lets a man take him home, then attacks him. I hope not. I’d rather have sheer insanity than that kind of hate crime.

  2. #2 Sven DiMilo
    December 29, 2009

    Why not read the linked article before opining? The alleged sexual assaults occurred a few days before the murder. The “defense” is not self-defense.

  3. #3 The Science Pundit
    December 29, 2009

    And he was stabbed several times in the front and five or six times in the back, suggesting that he’d assaulted his killer by way of a back flip, trying to batter him with his shoulder blades?his horrifically gay shoulder blades.

    To be fair, the killer claims that the assualts were in the past, and that he went to the professor’s home to confront him about it, and only killed him after Belton failed to show contrition. I most certainly don’t condone revenge killings (I don’t even support the government committing such acts), but the killer never claimed that this was an act of self defense for an assualt that was happening then.

  4. #4 Zeno
    December 29, 2009

    A nasty and ugly business. The murderer is probably deeply repressed and self-hating. I hope justice is done.

  5. #5 phoenixwoman
    December 29, 2009

    Sven, where did PZ use the words “self-defense”?

    Actually, this looks like a classic case of self-hating closet case having morning-after disgust for a one-night stand. See also “Gay Panic”.

    As for why PZ fears that this guy will get away scot-free: Google “dan white twinkie defense”.

  6. #6 Sven DiMilo
    December 29, 2009

    He didn’t use the words “self-defense.” He used these words, which strongly imply the same thing:

    the accused killer is offering as an excuse the claim that Belton had assaulted him.
    Of course, Belton was killed in his own home. With a ten-inch long military knife…And he was stabbed several times in the front and five or six times in the back, suggesting that he’d assaulted his killer by way of a back flip, trying to batter him with his shoulder blades.

  7. #7 scooterKPFT
    December 29, 2009

    What happened to the good old days when we murdered our professors for flunking us. Unfairly, of course.

  8. #8 PZ Myers
    December 29, 2009

    If you follow the link, it rather plainly states that the alleged assault occurred on Christmas day. I’m not saying he’s proposing that it was an act of self-defense.

  9. #9 raven
    December 29, 2009

    Very little of this story hangs together.

    We need more details. Since the professor is dead, we aren’t going to get his side.

  10. #10 stumpy
    December 29, 2009

    I live in Bloomington, went to school here, love the town. However, unfortunately, Bloomington is a small — no, tiny — oasis of liberal/progressive sentiment (or what passes for such here in Southern Indiana), surrounded by a vast desert of redness. And so, while I am horrified at what has happened, I am not greatly surprised. I’m afraid that Phoenixwoman’s analysis of the killer’s motives will likely prove to be accurate.

  11. #11 scribe999
    December 29, 2009

    Regardless, this seems a bit like the “gay panic” defense like in the case of Matthew Shephard’s murder.

  12. #12 Sven DiMilo
    December 29, 2009

    maybe he ate some Twinkies that day too

  13. #13 aratina cage
    December 29, 2009

    Tragic. From the sound of it, the killer was a complete idiot. He took the murder weapon home with him and didn’t know that his name was mentioned in the last entry of Professor Belton’s diary.

    Google “dan white twinkie defense”.

    Just watched Milk last week, and it saddened me at how little we have moved forward (actually, it almost seems that we moved backwards in some ways) in the USA as a society. Carrie Prejean is just Anita Bryant all over again. The homophobes have always been very good at selling hate. Their stereotypes of gays are ready-made for cold-blooded anti-gay murder justifications so that the flimsiest of murder excuses can sway juror sympathies.

  14. #14 monado
    December 30, 2009

    I read the article; didn’t mean to imply that the events must have been immediately following one after the other. But Phoenixwoman’s explanation makes more sense.

  15. #15 Momo
    December 30, 2009

    This is why I’m afraid to come out here. Indiana is a bastion of backwards red thinking. I go to a catholic high school and I spend every day repressing who I really am because I don’t want to be beaten or have my house vandalized.

  16. #16 scooterKPFT
    December 30, 2009

    Hey Steve DeMilo, are you still here?

  17. #17 scooterKPFT
    December 30, 2009

    Murdering people is more of an Easter thing, isn’t it?

  18. #18 Butch Pansy
    December 30, 2009

    I know the ‘phobes will blame the victim: they always do. I sympathize with Momo, but have been out for more than 30 years, admittedly in “safe” California. I’ve only been assaulted once, by a random straight man, and raped once, by a closeted gay man. My truck was turned on its side in the street by a neighbor who saw me kissing my boyfriend, but that was years ago, maybe about where/when Indiana is now. So, I try not to be a h8er, myself, but none of my best friends are straight. Well, one, but he’s the gayest straight man ever and I grew up with him; we’ve been friends for 37 years. Anyway, it’s another sad day in this not-so-friendly world. One positive note: my empathetic, ethical, moral, atheist friends have always had my back. Thank you.

  19. #19 KillJoy
    December 30, 2009

    Momo;

    I feel your pain dude. I grew up in a tiny little town in Rural New Mexico, where the only openly gay man that was well known in town got beaten up every Saturday night, and the cops made jokes about it. I didn’t really gain the courage to start coming out until my mid twenties when I moved to the west coast and found it to be ALOT more receptive and friendly to us gay folks. Hang in there.

    Re: Professor Belton;
    I’m in the ‘gay panic’ crowd. It sounds all to typical of the behavior from repressed, closeted individuals I have known. Of course, in those instances the GayPanic didn’t lead to murder, but its not hard to imagine how such a thing could get out of hand. Im reminded of when I heard about the Matthew Shepard murder. Shocked, and stricken by a little disbelief and sadness that shit like this still happens.

  20. #20 tsg
    December 30, 2009

    “I swear, officer, he ran onto my knife. Backwards. Seventeen times.”

  21. #21 KillJoy
    December 30, 2009

    One more comment from the Newbie. ;)

    Butch;

    I have been thankfully lucky in stumbling onto a crowd of some very accepting and awesome straight men who I am proud to call my friends. In fact, they are coming over tomorrow night to drink beer and froth and flail about politics. Its a Wednesday night tradition for us. They also are empathetic, moral atheist friends, as you so aptly put it. I think, maybe, that might make a large difference in how accepting they are of my particularly open (these days) brand of homosexuality.

    And thats it from the noob. For a moment or two. ;)

  22. #22 balloonguy
    December 30, 2009

    I knew Don Belton but not very well. He taught creative writing at Macalester for a few semesters. I took a class from him. This isn’t the way I like to see someone I know in the news.

  23. #23 irvin700
    December 30, 2009

    How are they sure that he was murdered because he was gay? I don’t understand the motivation and the planning of killing someone because of that. It was also not a group effort, which is usually the case for discrimination…or a gang member. lol

  24. #24 Rorschach
    December 30, 2009

    If he brought the knife with him, that would seem to show intent.If he grabbed it from the kitchen table, might have been heat of the moment.Interesting thing, this “gay panic”, had never heard of it before.
    17 stabs, there’s rage or passion in there, takes strong emotions.

  25. #25 reyfox
    December 30, 2009

    “It was also not a group effort, which is usually the case for discrimination…or a gang member. lol”

    Lol? Exactly what are you laughing at?

  26. #26 The Tim Channel
    December 30, 2009

    From the article it is easy to infer that this guy Michael had a homosexual encounter with the professor and then regretted it.

    I doubt that anything other than liquor or persuasion were involved in the original Christmas affair. Michael apparently had feelings of remorse for his actions on Xmas. Wonder how much remorse he has for killing the professor?

    My opinions are formed on the basis of Michael not involving the cops in the first place coupled with the note in the professor’s journal. There is also the fact that I’m highly skeptical that a strapping 25 year old male (with the obvious ability to overpower and kill) was forcibly raped by a 55 year old guy.

    I doubt he’ll get a sympathetic jury given the circumstances, but who knows? After all, there are dozens (hundreds?) of people walking around today that authorized torture and killing of innocent people (and brag about it on TV) who still haven’t been charged.

    If I were Mike’s lawyer I’d steer away from “the gay” defense and go straight for the ‘thought he might be a Muslim terrorist’ defense.

    Enjoy.

  27. #27 neon-elf.myopenid.com
    December 30, 2009

    The note in the late Professor’s journal seems to indicate that he though he was entering into a relationionship with his murderer. It definitely doesn’t sound like someone who had forcibly assaulted another person.

    It comes across like someone who had gay sex and then felt guilty, so they set out to remove the object of their guilt.

  28. #28 irvin700
    December 30, 2009

    Still don’t understand how killing crosses his mind for some lousy sex. That is like saying me feeling disgusted after having sex with a hooker, and then killing her and hide the body in my trunk. Whoa, I think I finally understand the dead hooker joke now.

    I guess feeling guilty for people can be both a bad and good thing. =P

  29. #29 Caine
    December 30, 2009

    Terrible news. I certainly hope this man doesn’t skate on a panic defense, a la the infamous twinkie defense. Some people, though…this comment was left at the article:

    53 year old gay man having sex with a 25 year old bi-sexual man. Sounds like a predator to me. And I would say the exact same thing if this was a straight couple in a sexual relationship! The age spread is too much and the mental maturity is so far advanced it equates to child molestation.

  30. #30 Richard Eis
    December 30, 2009

    How are they sure that he was murdered because he was gay?

    Read the article please. Idiot.

    Gay Panic. Not surprising when being gay is seen as bad as murder.

    I think i’ll blame religion for this.

  31. #31 Richard Eis
    December 30, 2009

    a la the infamous twinkie defense

    25 is NOT a twinkie.

  32. #32 Caine
    December 30, 2009

    Richard Eis @ 31:

    25 is NOT a twinkie.

    No, it isn’t. However, I was referring to Dan White’s defense in the Milk and Moscone murders.

  33. #33 KillJoy
    December 30, 2009

    Indeed, 25 does not count as a twinkie. Though Thats not what was being referred to.

    Though it must be said, clearly our boy here did not have the emotional maturity to deal with the fact that he had sex with another man.

    This does NOT however, in any way, come close to child molestation. A 25 year old man, unless he is developmentally retarded,is fully culpable for choices like going to bed with another man, or killing that man when his fragile, poisoned ego cannot wrap itself around that idea. The gap in age here is no excuse.

    At the very worst all it constitutes is ‘using’, which, while perhaps not the most savory way to get sex or affection, is all too common. Lord knows I’ve been used by people. The difference here is that most of us don’t flip out and stab the user repeatedly and then flee the scene and not bother to contact police. No, the victim here is not Michael. It is Don Benton.

    To suggest that somehow this very brutal murder is justified by comparing it to pedophilia is downright monstrous to me.

    People piss me off. Yay misanthropy. It’s late here on the west coast and I should be in bed not frothing at the mouth on Pharyngula. I just HAD to get that out before I exploded. Maybe I should have posted it in reply to the orginal comment instead eh? Oh well.

  34. #34 KillJoy
    December 30, 2009

    Err. Belton. I really should check these things more thoroughly, especially at 2 am.

  35. #35 cylusys
    December 30, 2009

    I doubt it even constitutes ‘using’ from what Don Belton wrote in his journal. As for trying to compare it to child molestation, well, that is a bat the homophobes wield far too easily. You need only look at how often the spectre of corruptible children is brought up whenever an issue of gay civil rights comes up for decision.

    Like for prop 8, how many lies were told about ‘teaching gay marriage to kids without your consent’?

  36. #36 JHS
    December 30, 2009

    Bottom line, people still *hate* us, and they will for the time being.

    Sad to say, but it’s not looking too good out there for aetheists. We push and we push…and nothing happens. Sigh.

  37. #37 Andreas Johansson
    December 30, 2009

    @JHS: I don’t see any indication that this had anything to do with atheism.

  38. #38 puseaus
    December 30, 2009

    Insanity grows in all sorts of environment, and it thrives in such lacking of human tolerance and where a skewed understanding of reality dominates. Although complex, these are fairly well known mechanisms in the rational picture. I wonder what sad (and probably irrelevant) detail pulled the triggers in this case?

  39. #39 Legion
    December 30, 2009

    Butch:

    My truck was turned on its side in the street by a neighbor who saw me kissing my boyfriend…

    WTF Butch, was your neighbor green, 15 feet tall, and did he go by the name, “Hulk?” How does someone turn over a truck without arousing interest from the surrounding neighbors. Was your whole neighborhood full of these freaks?

    It takes some serious hate to muster that much effort to tell someone you don’t approve of their lifestyle.

    We too vote for “Gay Panic” as the underlying cause of this crime.

  40. #40 Carlie
    December 30, 2009

    So how many more college professors need to be murdered before colleges start adequately funding and supporting their campus mental health services?

  41. #41 Abdul Alhazred
    December 30, 2009

    ‘Gay panic’ defense?

    Matthew Shepard’s killers tried it but were convicted.

    Is there a case of it being used successfully?

  42. #42 Carlie
    December 30, 2009

    Is there a case of it being used successfully?

    Joseph Biedermann

    Steven Scarborough

    To not trigger me into the black hole of moderation, also look up Terron Oates/Alexis King.

    It’s been used successfully often enough that gay panic/trans panic is a well-known strategy, and that there are movements specifically trying to get it banned as a permissible defense tactic. It often results in a really heinous murder being reduced to manslaughter.

  43. #43 Abdul Alhazred
    December 30, 2009

    Thanks for the information.

  44. #44 aratina cage
    December 30, 2009

    Another gay panic case is that of Gwen Araujo.

  45. #45 Janine, She Wolf Of Pharyngula, OM
    December 30, 2009

    Aratina Cage, the case of Gwen Araujo is a case of trans panic.

  46. #46 gr8hands
    December 30, 2009

    From July 17, 2009

    How do you stab and slash someone 61 times, not just killing but slaughtering him, then walk free?

    That’s the lingering question in the wake of last week’s acquittal of Joseph Biedermann of Hoffman Estates, who admitted to inflicting numerous fatal wounds on Terrance Hauser during an early-morning altercation in March 2008 in Hauser’s apartment in the complex where both men lived.The answer, in this case, is that you cast yourself as the victim of an attempted homosexual rape, then you throw in all-or-nothing with the jury.

    Biedermann, now 30, testified that he first met Hauser, 38, at a tavern shortly before the incident. After the bartender refused to serve Biedermann any more alcohol, the two, both drunk, repaired to Hauser’s apartment. Biedermann said after some conversation he passed out, then awoke to find Hauser holding a sword to his neck, ordering him to disrobe and submit to a sexual act.

    “It’s the most bizarre case I’ve ever been a part of,” said Biedermann’s defense attorney, Sam Adam Jr., whose strangeness threshold is high as he represented rapper R. Kelly in his sensational rape trial and now represents former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

    Biedermann described the subsequent melee in which he gained control of a dagger and used it to stab Hauser repeatedly in an attempt to escape. Cook County prosecutors and other skeptics say that story doesn’t add up: Biedermann was slightly larger and slightly less drunk than Hauser, and couldn’t possibly have had to stab him five dozen times in order to escape.

    The scene showed almost no signs of a life-and-death struggle, suggesting Biedermann simply attacked Hauser.

    In the bloody overkill of the stabbing frenzy some see the hallmark of “gay panic” cases — ones in which defendants suggest, sometimes successfully, that homosexual overtures are themselves sufficient provocation for acts of extreme violence.

    Rick Garcia, political director of Equality Illinois, said he was “disgusted” by Biedermann’s acquittal. “The gay panic defense is passe but, unfortunately, it still works in some places. It seems to me that this jury based its verdict not on the facts but on deep seated anti-gay sentiment.”

    Adam, not surprisingly, disagrees. “This verdict wasn’t anti-gay, it was anti-rape,” he said. “Hauser threatened to kill my client. He simply fought back.”

    With 61 thrusts of a knife? “During the fight, Hauser fell on top of [Biedermann] on the couch,” Adam said. “So [Biedermann] just kept stabbing and stabbing trying get him off.”

    Believers say Biedermann’s account adds up. He had no history of violent behavior (nor did Hauser), the weapon he used belonged to Hauser, and he, Biedermann, also suffered wounds in the altercation, albeit comparatively minor.

    Adam said he thinks jurors might have voted for a compromise verdict — second-degree murder, which, under Illinois law, means that the killer believed his actions were justified, but that belief was objectively unreasonable.

    Prosecutors didn’t want to give the jury that option, even though it might best fit the boozy, horrific mayhem that left Hauser dead and Biedermann covered with blood.

    “Our view was the evidence showed [Biedermann] never actually believed his life was in danger,” said Joe Magats, deputy chief of criminal prosecutions for the Cook County state’s attorney’s office. “We couldn’t then turn around and argue to the jury that he did believe that … .”

    Biedermann didn’t want to give the jury that option either, even though second-degree murder is a probationable offense that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, and first-degree murder, the original charge, carries a 20-year minimum. The charge of first-degree murder does not require premeditation and can include killings committed “under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance,” so it was a huge risk.

    “He gambled,” said Adam. “He felt the jury would have reasonable doubt about what happened in that apartment that night. The state gambled too.”

    Biedermann won. The state lost. How did justice do? We’ll never know for sure.

    This is why PZ is so scared about this guy. In Chicago, this other murderer got off scott-free!

  47. #47 aratina cage
    December 30, 2009

    Aratina Cage, the case of Gwen Araujo is a case of trans panic.

    Janine, I’m having déjà vu that I had this same conversation on Pharyngula before. Well, I am technically wrong I suppose. I just think that trans panic defense is no different from gay panic defense in how the perp claims to have killed or maimed the LGBT victim out of a sudden, intense bout of shame, fear, offense, disgust, whatever at being hit on by or having contact (sexual, visual, or otherwise) with the victim who has the same genitals/gender as the perp.

  48. #48 Molly, NYC
    December 30, 2009

    Momo @ 15 – When are you graduating? Forgive the obviousness of this advice (and the utter OT-ness of this post) but college is usually the great escape for young men and women in your position. Don’t despair. Keep your grades up, cultivate a hobby that looks good on applications and see if your school counselor has any decent advice (some are terrific, some are jackasses). You might also check in with these people: http://www.thepointfoundation.org . You’re not the only one in this situation, which is why there are entire organizations that deal with it. Good luck.

  49. #49 Janine, She Wolf Of Pharyngula, OM
    December 30, 2009

    Aratina Cage, you are right that the end result is the same. The main difference is this, that the transgendered person is committing an act of fraud, the the victim is not living the gender that was assigned to them. So it is possible that the murderer of the transgendered victim does not have suppressed homosexual tendencies. But their sense of maleness is so fragile that being “tricked” by a transgendered women, a person who rejected their maleness, is an extremely transgressive act that must be punished.

  50. #50 Sharon Astyk
    December 30, 2009

    I haven’t read all the comments, so this may have been said, but while it may well be the case that this guy is scum (for the record I was on a panel once with Don Belton and am terribly sorry to hear of his death) and this a gay panic instance -in fact, I’d say the odds are good, I’m a little troubled by the fact that people seem to automatically dismiss the victim’s claims of sexual assault.

    That is the standard claim in “gay panic” murders. But it is also the case that male-male rape occurs. Even if it did, it does not justify murder, and clearly, intent was manifest, but I’m troubled by this because I think we tend to be casual about sexual assault on men in ways that we are learning not to be about women. We often observe that prisoners who are raped in jail “deserve it” or are dismissive of the idea that a real man could be sexually assaulted.

    I don’t like to think that Belton, who I knew slightly and liked back in my lit days, could do this, but I also don’t want to instantly leap to the conclusion that it is impossible that man in question was sexually assaulted by another man, or to trivialize that accusation. In no way would that justify murder. But erasing the realities that men do get raped doesn’t help. The odds are that this will turn out to be a gay panic case – but leaping to that conclusion doesn’t help and to me, seems to trivialize a real issue. No one would be responding as they are if he was female.

    Sharon

  51. #51 Butch Pansy
    December 30, 2009

    @39:

    It was a ’70s Datsun; I might have been able to do it myself. They picked up my boyfriend’s Triumph Spitfire and turned it 9o degrees to the right between two concrete walls only inches away. It took about a thousand-point-turn to get it out, not having the desire to try lifting the car, ourselves.

  52. #52 KillJoy
    December 30, 2009

    Cylusys;

    Agreed. I do not think this instance looks at all like ‘using’ in any way. Worst case scenario and all that.

    The child molestation comparison is, indeed, old hat for homophobes. We had similar bats wielded in opposition to prop 71 here in Washington. However familiar it might be though, it still makes me froth at the mouth and gnash my teeth. Wild eyed, rabid homosexual. Frightening.

  53. #53 cylusys
    December 30, 2009

    @50:
    While you do raise a good point one of the key elements is that he claims to have been assaulted twice, and given his build being raped once by Belton would have been unlikely, but TWICE?

    Plus this statement probably reveals more than intended “show or express any type of feeling that what had taken place was a mistake,”. Sounds more like he was trying to get confirmation that what they had done together was wrong/shameful and didn’t get the answer he was looking for.

  54. #54 aratina cage
    December 30, 2009

    Sharon Astyk, I hope you are not on the jury for this trial. The victim here is Professor Belton, who is dead. Of course Griffin made up a story to justify the murder; they always do!

  55. #55 gr8hands
    December 30, 2009

    Sharon Astyk wrote:

    No one would be responding as they are if he was female.

    Sorry, but if a straight woman had sex with a gay man, and days later the gay man came back and stabbed/killed her, we’d be having much the same discussion about how unlikely it really was that the gay man had been assaulted/raped.

    There is no indication that Belton assaulted the man, only that the guy was bothered by the gay sex afterwards. There was no police report, no evidence of a physical attack, no going to the hospital.

    If I had been raped, I’d be concerned about the possibility of contracting AIDS, and want to get checked — but the murderer didn’t do that. (maybe his “rapist” was thoughtful enough to wear a condom)

    As people have pointed out — you miss quite a bit by not reading their posts — it is unlikely that an older gentleman would have been successful in a rape attempt on a man only half his age! He is not claiming to have been drugged, so there really isn’t a rational belief that he would be ‘overpowered’ in a fit of gay lust.

    Yes, I suppose that man-on-man rape does occur, but not usually in situations where the “victim” has the ability to get away (people always bring up prison, but never out in regular society, and for a good reason — I believe it is incredibly rare).

    No, the evidence in these types of cases is overwhelming — the initial sexual contact was mutual, reciprocal, and then later . . .

  56. #56 davep
    December 30, 2009

    #8 PZ Meyers: “I’m not saying he’s proposing that it was an act of self-defense.”

    Yes, you did.

    You IMPLY it here:

    “accused killer is offering as an excuse the claim that Belton had assaulted”

    And you SAY (indirectly) it here:

    “five or six times in the back, suggesting that [the professor] assaulted his killer by way of a back flip”

    If you want to be honest, you should correct the original post.

  57. #57 KillJoy
    December 30, 2009

    Sharon;

    Ive got to say I’m with Cylusys on this one.
    While we certainly are not privy to all the details in the case, I would say with two encounters under the belt, and Professor Belton’s apparent reputation, I am more inclined to lean toward ‘not rape’.

    That having been said, trivializing male/male rape was certainly never an intention of mine, nor do I think, of anyone else commenting on the thread. It certainly does occur. Though society at large does tend to gloss over the issue and even snicker at it with prison rape jokes in movies and television. While jokes of that nature regarding male/female rape would be unthinkable.

    It just seems unlikely to me that there was anything resembling rape involved in this case. But, time and further evidence of course, will tell. We are, after all supposed to be skeptics here, right? ;)

  58. #58 Abdul Alhazred
    December 30, 2009

    Self defense might be a situation of killing to fight off an attack. Coming back later is not self defense.

  59. #59 Michael D. LoPrete
    December 30, 2009

    stumpy @10:

    As a resident of B-town (and former student), I used to share your assessment of this area being a blue dot in a sea of red The more I’m here, the less clear that seems to me here; at least in this county, it’s more or less purple both in and out of the city.

    In any case, we’re far too early to know what will happen. It depends on what plea the prosecutor is willing to offer and what the defendant will be willing to accept.

    Chances are, in a few months, this guy will sign his name on a plea with a lengthy (but not long enough) sentence, the local paper will devote about 10 inches of print to it on the front page the day he’s sentenced, and that’ll be the end of it.

  60. #60 Crewvy
    December 30, 2009

    Here in NZ the govt has just abolished the Provocation defense, after a particularly nasty trial where a university lecturer murdered his girlfriend by stabbing her 216 times.
    And then proceeded to use the trial to relive and gloat about it.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/2663064/Weatherston-trial-Call-to-abolish-provocation-defence

  61. #61 chrstphrgthr
    December 30, 2009

    Obviously gay panic, but how is that a useful defense? It’s a reason certainly, but no excuse. Is the average juror really more sympathetic to a killer after learning his act was a result of regret over a consensual tryst?

    “Well, of course, the defendant temporarily lost his mind, wouldn’t you?… Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we are, after all, talking about gay sex.”

  62. #62 Pierce R. Butler
    December 30, 2009

    … a ten-inch long military knife, which I’m sure is a common accessory carried by visitors to professor’s homes.

    Well, you never know when their pet cephalopods dragons giant apes blobs monsters might get over-excited.

  63. #63 gr8hands
    December 30, 2009

    chrstphrgthr, it is a useful defense because it works about half of the time! Sad, pathetic, but true.

    You’d be surprised at the number of people who feel that gay people deserve whatever happens to them. (There is even a judge at such a murder trial that is quoted as saying “is killing a queer even illegal?” — but perhaps that is an urban legend.)

    And almost every one of them gives a religious reason for hating fags. Hitchens is right, religion poisons everything!

  64. #64 cearbhaill
    December 30, 2009

    “the killer claims that the assualts were in the past, and that he went to the professor’s home to confront him about it…”

    With a KNIFE? Pre-meditated murder.

  65. #65 keinsignal
    December 30, 2009

    Unless there are two black gay english professors named Don Belton, I took a creative writing class from this guy back at Macalester. I’m fucking speechless here, I can’t believe anybody would do this. One of the nicest guys I’ve ever known in my life.

    Fuck, I think I still owe him a few stories.

  66. #66 Vashti
    December 30, 2009

    @davep

    #8 PZ Meyers: “I’m not saying he’s proposing that it was an act of self-defense.”

    Yes, you did.

    You IMPLY it here:

    “accused killer is offering as an excuse the claim that Belton had assaulted”

    I really don’t see how self-defense is implied here. An excuse is merely an offered explanation for the behavior. Self-defense might be one such excuse, but it is certainly not the only one. Even in a strictly legal sense, when trying to mitigate guilt, an excuse of prior assault comes across more like revenge than self-defense.

  67. #67 Gregory Greenwood
    December 30, 2009

    Events like this really make me wonder what the hell is wrong with people. As pointed out above, the rape scenario seems at best unlikely. What we are left with is a homophobe with repressed homosexual tendencies who murdered this Professor in some manic bid to erase their ealier tryst.

    I cannot conceive how the mind of someone like that works. So, he has engaged in an act of homosexuality. So he might be gay or bisexual. So what? You would think that he would be cognisant of the fact that it is the 21st century. Fear and hatred of homosexuals is no longer universally considered acceptable. Homophobic hatred is generally frowned upon among those who are not infected with fundamentalist religion. He could have applied a little rational thought and considered all that various homosexual luminaries have contributed to society. There is nothing wrong or shameful in being gay.

    Instead of behaving rationally, however, he decided that the only way he could assuage his feelings of self loathing was to murder the person he had had sex with in some irrational attempt to cancel out the act after the fact. While being gay is harmless, behaving like an amoral sociopath is definately on the problematic side of the social scale.

    I cannot judge this case in the absence of the full facts, but based on the information available it certainly appears to be the case that if this guy walks it will simply be further proof that justice in many parts of the world is hard to come by if you occupy a niche outside what is considered to be the societal norm. Of course, if you are gay then you commit the even more unforgivable sin of threatening the oh so fragile sexual identities of those in charge.

  68. #68 monado
    December 30, 2009

    It reminded me of a case we had in Toronto where a man picked up his ex-wife in his truck, drove somewhere isolated, and stabbed her about 15 times. He claimed that she had brought the knife and attacked him and he was just defending himself. It was the teens of stab wounds that reminded me. As I recall, he got off–stupid juries!

  69. #69 monado
    December 30, 2009

    To tell the truth, the best thing women can do to live a long life without being murdered is not to get involved with a man!

  70. #70 KillJoy
    December 30, 2009

    @ #67

    Gregory;

    Brilliantly put. You said what I wanted to say, but with a great deal more clarity and eloquence. Will I get things thrown at my head if i say ‘Amen brother’? ;)

  71. #71 Sharon Astyk
    December 30, 2009

    Aratina, you hope I’m not on the jury because I would consider evidence if there were any that an accused killer’s defense might be true? Really? How astonishing. I thought that was what juries were supposed to do.

    I think the odds are vastly in favor of this being gay panic, I knew Belton slightly and I’m terribly, terribly sorry he’s dead. I don’t think I’m a ‘phobe – I grew up in the gay community – I’m bi, my mothers are lesbians, I came out in the 80s back when no one came out in high school ;-).

    I guess I know more than one young gay man who has been raped (by both gay and ostensibly straight men) and been really traumatized by it. The reason they don’t go to the hospital or report it is the same reason women don’t often times ten or twenty – because men aren’t supposed to be raped, because being a victim of rape is so shameful and destructive to men. I’ve never yet met one who reported it. And it isn’t always a contest of pure strength, but of psychological power, and all the things that come into this in rape.

    Again, I met Belton, and liked him. But I’ve liked other people who turned out to do rather awful things in the past. I don’t think that’s likely – merely minutely possible. I think the odds are very good that the killer is scum lying to get off. Even if he was raped, he’s still a murderer.

    All I’m saying is that I would wait a little longer before finalizing judgement.

    Sharon

  72. #72 ajmahal
    December 30, 2009

    “The main difference is this, that the transgendered person is committing an act of fraud, the the victim is not living the gender that was assigned to them. ” Janine, are you saying that this is your view or a lawyer’s defense? As a transperson, the only fraud that I am guilty of was not living out my gender in honesty and clinging to my gender assigned at birth. Although it is not smart for a MtF transwoman to go to a frat party in stealth or a cysgendered woman to go to a frat party drunk, neither warrants a rape or murder.

    The reason I get frustrated when people conflate transphobia and transpanic with homophobia and gay panic is that transphobia is alive and well within the lesbian and gay community. dig this:
    http://questioningtransphobia.wordpress.com/2009/03/06/transphobic-assault-outside-washington-dc-bar/

    Ah, the hierarchy of of queerness. Ain’t it grand?

  73. #73 balloonguy
    December 30, 2009

    Posted by: neon-elf.myopenid.com Author Profile Page | December 30, 2009 3:29 AM

    The note in the late Professor’s journal seems to indicate that he though he was entering into a relationship with his murderer. It definitely doesn’t sound like someone who had forcibly assaulted another person.

    Hold on, now. We can’t assume that someone’s journal entry is a factual description of events. Some rapists convince themselves they are in consensual sex in a romantic relationship.

    I don’t think that’s the case here, but let’s not jump to conclusions based just on a journal entry.

  74. #74 Janine, She Wolf Of Pharyngula, OM
    December 30, 2009

    Ajmahal, you have my deepest apologies. I should have checked what I wrote down, that is not what I meant to write. it should have been this.

    The main difference is this, that the murderer thinks that the transgendered person is committing an act of fraud, the the victim is not living the gender that was assigned to them.

    This is very embarrassing. I do not want anybody to think I am placing the blame on the transgendered victims of violence. I am well aware that many gays and lesbians are transphobic. Witness how some gay men treat drag queens or the on going controversy of transgendered woman at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.

  75. #75 deang
    December 30, 2009

    It’s possible that what the murderer claims was “sexual assault” was no more than the professor putting his hand on the guy’s shoulder, or even just gazing into the guy’s eyes. Macho hatred of homosexuality is so strong that the merest hint of it can be exaggerated in the mind. There are guys in this culture who seriously think that if a gay guy is just attracted to you, without even any contact or acquaintance, that in itself is an insult worthy of violent revenge.

    And the murderer’s violent actions owe as much to US military values as they do to religion.

  76. #76 aratina cage
    December 31, 2009

    Sharon Astyk #71,

    Aratina, you hope I’m not on the jury because I would consider evidence if there were any that an accused killer’s defense might be true?

    Was calling the alleged killer a “victim” a slip of your tongue?

    Your words:

    I’m a little troubled by the fact that people seem to automatically dismiss the victim’s claims of sexual assault.

    There doesn’t seem to be much reason to doubt that the alleged killer did kill Professor Belton what with the murder weapon being recovered and documentation of an intimate relationship between Belton and Griffin. The early solidity of the case against Griffin is a good reason to doubt sexual assault allegations as nothing more than the moral writhing of a cold-blooded murderer with no other way to justify his actions. It’s the standard preemptive strike to turn the LGBT/Black victim of deadly violence into the bad guy in the public eye before the case even reaches court.

    This is a case where we need to be scrupulous before believing there is any truth to the story Griffin is selling in the same way we wouldn’t automatically believe every story that comes out of Liar for Jebus™ Ray Comfort’s mouth. I think we should wait to see if there is any evidence before buying the sexual assault story.

  77. #77 Ol'Greg
    December 31, 2009

    Difficult. Having been taken advantage of by my teacher and then having my academic career and future in general destroyed when I reported I have to say I have a bit of sympathy if indeed the guy was coerced into sex he wasn’t ready to have.

    Sorry, but that is rape people and it sucks.

    It doesn’t, however, provide any excuse for cold blooded murder. I hope more details come out about this. In my mind though I don’t see how any argument that he only went there to confront isn’t completely destroyed by the fact that he went here with a large knife.

    If the guy is lying about the assault then that is doubly sick. What bothers me though is this idea that even if he was raped by another man that the rape would excuse murder. That wouldn’t even catch the public’s fancy in a hetero situation I don’t think.

    I guess the thing is, if he were suing the school I’d sympathize with the rape victim… but he’s not. He’s providing a defense for murder, which is also a really good motivation to lie. Troubling all around.

  78. #78 Anonymous in Bloomington
    December 31, 2009

    For those of you who wish to follow developments in this case, I recommend:

    http://justicefordonbelton.com/

    Here is a short excerpt which might clarify a few points (for example, this was not a student-teacher relationship, as some commenters have assumed):

    “Some news articles also seem to imply that Don and Michael were simply acquaintances. The Herald Times recently published an article describing Don Belton and Michael Griffin as having a ‘brief, conflicted’ relationship, an inference that is not supported by evidence. Many people remember Michael and his girlfriend developing a strong bond with Don Belton as long ago as last summer. The couple, who sometimes did yard work for English faculty, often remarked to Don?s colleagues that they were fond of him and that he was becoming a good friend. This bond is demonstrated by the fact that they invited Don to their home on Christmas Day, and this type of committed friendship was typical of Don.”

    Both alleged sexual assaults took place at Griffin’s home on xmas day, and, according to developing news, were apparently witnessed by the defendant’s girlfriend; she and Griffin were “highly intoxicated” (I believe those are her words). I won’t repeat unsubstantiated “facts” being tossed about in the comments section of the local newspaper, but let’s just say that Griffin and his girlfriend had reputations.

    Finally, Griffin pled not guilty this morning. It’s quite possible that “gay panic” will not be the defense at all. Rather, the injuries he sustained in Iraq (the theory is some kind of concussive brain damage) may be at the center of a defense strategy.

  79. #79 Ol'Greg
    December 31, 2009

    Hey… thanks for that link Anonymous in Bloomington.

    That does put a different spin on the story.

  80. #80 THE WISE FAMILY
    December 31, 2009

    THE WISE FAMILY says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    December 31, 2009 at 11:45 am
    Don was a very humble person if you got to know him. This murder comes as a huge shock to our family. Our family loved Don dearly. I am one of the many cousins that Don has. I would like everyone to know that the family doesn?t believe that the story that Michael has told is true. THE FAMILY LOVES YOU DON R.I.P. WE PRAY THAT THE MEDIA LET?S YOU R.I.P. TOO.

  81. #81 gr8hands
    December 31, 2009

    Ol’Greg, I am sorry that your academic career and future in general were destroyed.

    However, what you described was not rape. Perhaps you are not using the right words to describe what actually happened, due to the trauma during/afterwards. Nor am I somehow trying to blame you. It is entirely possible that the important parts left out were that it happened when you were a minor, or threats were made, or something like that.

    But, being “coerced” into sex as an adult is not rape. Nowhere did you say “against my will” or something to indicate it was rape.

    Coercing me into having a piece of dessert does not mean forcing me to have it. It means that I may have had an initial desire not to, but that after persuasion I changed my mind.

    Some may think this is mere parsing of words — but “no, maybe, well I probably shouldn’t, you won’t tell anyone will you…ok” is not rape. No means no, but when you’ve said “yes” you can’t come back later and say you were coerced and really meant no, and you weren’t “ready”.

    “I only said yes because I was drunk, I never would had done that if I were sober” is also not rape.

    “You should have known that I didn’t really want to have sex then” “It was obvious that I wasn’t really agreeing” is also not rape.

    “Honest, your Honor, I didn’t really want to buy that car — the salesman coerced me.”

    Actual real rape is too serious for it to either be misapplied or trivialized. It is a crime, a tragedy, a scourge. But having second thoughts afterwards does not retroactively make consensual-at-the-time sex rape.

    Rape is:

    The crime of rape (or “first-degree sexual assault” in some states) generally refers to non-consensual sexual intercourse that is committed by physical force, threat of injury, or other duress.

  82. #82 Leigh Harold
    December 31, 2009

    Leigh Wise-Harold (cousin of Don Belton) Wise Family in Philadelphia, PA
    Don Belton, son of Doris Wise and Charles Belton, was a beautiful person! He was a very talented, intelligent, and loving person that encouraged his family to love each other, to seek education and to learn their culture. He would never hurt anyone! The lies that are being told by that monster that murdered him are just that! LIES! What was done in the dark will come to the light! We pray that Michael J. Griffin will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law! His life meant nothing to him but it meant so much to so many!

    Rest in Peace Don! We loved you then, we love you now and we will love you forever!

  83. #83 Ol'Greg
    December 31, 2009

    gr8hands

    The story I told is not my story. You owe me no apologies. You can do a board search for my story, so no need to re-tell it.

    Um but I think you are dead wrong. See where I said “didn’t want to have” that would be “against the will” dear. Actually the threat of duress is exactly what I’m talking about but I’m getting the impression you only think a knife to the head or a pummeled face is duress.

    So yeah, shove it.

  84. #84 Ol'Greg
    December 31, 2009

    Oh and fucking a passed out person is rape, or a person who is too drunk to say no.

    It is rape, and you are completely wrong to imply that it isn’t.

  85. #85 Ol'Greg
    December 31, 2009

    Oh and in the future, do take the time to do that board search before you make any assumptions about my life.

    I don’t need your help you sanctimonious idiot.

  86. #86 KevinA
    December 31, 2009

    keinsignal:

    I hope you write those stories.

  87. #87 Rowen
    December 31, 2009

    I’d like to point out that the possibility that the murderer was assualted is not being trivialized, at least, not by what I’ve been reading. What the murderer IS doing, however, is following a long tradition, that unfortunately has worked, wherein someone kills a homosexual, or a transgendered person, and then claims self defense, even though it’s clear they went out of their way to buy a gun, or bring a knife over, or do ANYTHING that would dismiss ANY claim of self defense (in this case, the young man went over for a “social visit” in which he brought his knife.)

    It’s possible that he was assaulted during one of his visits. The proper response is to then make a visit to the cops, NOT to pay a social visit and commit pre-meditated murder. And the fact that he’s using “He’s GAY!!! He HIT on ME!!! It was GROSS!!” as an excuse for murder is beyond the pale, but still, has had a history of being used in someone’s defense.

  88. #88 balloonguy
    December 31, 2009

    keinsignal, it’s the same guy. I had him for Creative Writing 3 at Mac in the 90-91 academic year.

  89. #89 Cat
    January 1, 2010

    @ 50:
    As much as I understand the desire to not convinct someone before all the evidence is laid bare, I do not think it is unfair to say that a middle aged academic would have a hard time raping a young Marine. And twice, to boot.
    Even if sexual advances had been made, I hardly imagine Griffin- had he been so shocked- would have given Belton the chance to do so twice, and then go to his house alone. Not to mention Belton’s diary suggests that the advances- whatever they may have constitued- were not undesired, or at the very least were not rebuffed directly.

    Frankly, I would be just as outraged if this was female x female violence. As it stands, the answer seems a bit cut and dry (though evidence later may show to the contrary- who knows?), however for some it is not as simple by virtue of the fact that it was not male x female or female x male violence. And it is that bias which is sick and disgusting.

  90. #90 Asta
    January 3, 2010

    Lots of thought-provoking comments here. The one thing that may give some clues would be Griffin’s past as a Marine. That must have been a hotbed of repression and aggression for someone with any hint of gay or bisexual curiosity.

    It’s also not clear if Griffin was a student. If Belton was trying to be discreet, fulfill his obligations as an academic and separate his professional life from his personal life (i.e., have his own life outside of teaching), there is a good chance that, as someone else has hinted, he and Griffin met outside of the classroom and maybe online. If Griffin is not a student, then the personal ties are even closer, since he and Belton must have met through other people or in some informal, non-academic setting such as a party, or at a pub, perhaps. Also, many professors at IU are very careful about inviting students to their home, or do so under specific circumstances, such as inviting the entire class over, so the presence of a couple at Belton’s house indicates personal invitation (and acceptance thereof) outside of class function. This is confirmed by the fact that one of the so-called assaults occurred on Christmas. Bloomington is very quiet then, and it is curious that Griffin chose to be with Belton on that day, and not with his family.

    It is tragic when deep personal remorse results in the end of someone’s life, especially someone who was happy to have found a new friend.

  91. #91 ej2010
    January 5, 2010

    I’m really troubled that everyone is just accepting what Griffin said and speculating based on the words of an ADMITTED MURDERER.

    Let’s just get some facts out there.

    1. There is no evidence that ANY SEX happened at ANY TIME. If such evidence exists (in the form of the girlfriend’s testimony or Belton’s diary) it has NOT been made public.

    2. The only evidence we have that there was sex comes from the mouth of the man who also admitted to killed Belton.

    So. Why are you all so happy to accept that Griffin is a sad closet case who came to regret his illicit sexual contact with Belton and then killed Belton out of guilt or self-hate or whatever?

    Open your darn minds. If you people were students in my class, I would be giving you all very low grades on critical thinking skills right now. What if there was no sex? What if Griffin killed Belton for some other reason and then realized that Belton being gay made him an easy/good target?

    Stop taking Griffin’s story as a logical basis from which to speculate. It’s the story told by a man who stabbed a much older man to death (mainly in the back, as the reports go). I wouldn’t trust a guy like that to tell me the truth about what he had for breakfast. Why would I trust him to say what really happened between him and Don Belton?

  92. #92 LexiCali
    January 11, 2010

    Momo,

    I was born and raised in Bloomington, IN. It is NO small town. Compared to those around you. No matter what you are someone will find a reason to get on you for it. Gay, Straight, Black, White, Hispanic, Nerds, Jocks…Whatever it’s all childish. The fact of the matter is, Indiana University is a HUGE Theater Arts school and not to stereotype, but a lot of the people involved in this major choose to be homosexuals. Which I have seen from such a young age as My Grandmother and now my Aunt owns Costume Delights on S. Walnut Street and she does lots of events for Uncle Elizabeth’s, the gay bar in town off the square and for a lot of the parties on Campus. It’s important to be who you are. If you’re not true to yourself you might wake up one day and realized you’ve missed out on a lot of things you could have taken advantage of. It’s easy to say that you’re gay in an anonymous way and I’m sure that it feels wonderful to have ONE place where you can be YOU, but why not all the time. Don’t let those dumb rednecks in MartinTukey and of those tiny hick towns get to you or keep you from being you. You are one person but by being you, you can be ONE HELL of a person. Just be true to who you are and what you believe and let everyone else do the same because at the end of the day we don’t know who’s right and wrong about the after life. They’re all just theories. Good Luck

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