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Exclusive: Controversial ‘gay panic’ defense examined on True Crime Story: Indefensible

Jena Friedman interviews an academic expert on the flawed nature of gay panic defenses. Pic credit: Sundance

In True Crime Story: Indefensible, two strangers meet at a bar, but their evening ends with a gruesome death. The interesting bit comes afterward.

Police think they know who’s to blame, but questions of motive leave them stumped.

Monsters & Critics has an exclusive first look at the upcoming new episode featuring host Jena Friedman — who was Oscar-nominated and won a Writers Guild Award for her work on Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.

Associate professor of criminal justice, W. Carsten Andresen, is interviewed. He breaks down the difference between a traditional self-defense case and what has become known as “gay panic” or “trans panic” defenses.

They see defendants in court cases argue that they committed a violent crime because they were suffering temporary insanity brought about by the unwanted advances of someone of the same sex or a transgender person.

According to the UCLA School of Law, “Currently, 12 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation eliminating the use of gay and trans panic defenses, but the defenses remain available in most states.”

Professor W. Carsten Andresen explains ‘gay panic’

Proving self-defense in a violent attack has, over time, led to a variety of strategies developing, some more unusual than others. Remember the Twinkie defense?

The “gay panic” strategy is another one and has long been controversial. In both “gay panic” and “trans panic” defenses, it’s the victim who is subversively or sometimes directly blamed for being attacked or killed — simply for being who they are.

Professor of criminal justice and researcher W. Carsten Andresen is an expert on gay and trans panic defenses and lends his insight in M&C’s exclusive preview of this week’s True Crime Story: Indefensible.

In our clip, he explains the gay panic defense, which, according to him, “invents a motivation to defend deadly violence.”

He explains it simply as “[I] kill a man, and I said it’s because he made an advance at me.”

Friedman asks what differentiates traditional self-defense from a case where the “gay panic” strategy might be used.

“Often in a straight-up traditional self-defense case, the person is shot or stabbed one or two times,” Andresen says. “What you see with gay panic cases or trans panic cases is that there is an extreme amount of force used.

“If you see somebody that is stabbed 30 times, 60 times … there’s one case where somebody stabs somebody 200 times. That level of overkill has historically been linked to biased killings of gay men.”

True Crime Story: Indefensible looks at the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of justice

In True Crime Story: Indefensible, stand-up comic Friedman travels the country to dig into real crime cases on the ground. However, unlike most true crime shows, this one doesn’t end when the criminal gets locked up. Instead, she takes the view that there’s always more to the story and looks beyond the simple whodunnit.

Using her direct approach and comedic point of view— and armed with expert interview skills — Jena uncovers the “why” and “how” not only of crimes themselves but of our collective and sometimes-dysfunctional criminal justice system.

Check out the exclusive clip below:

The fourth installment of the six-part series, True Crime Story: Indefensible, is titled The Panic Defense, and debuts on Thursday, November 4, at 10/9c on SundanceTV and AMC+.

April is an accredited entertainment writer, interviewer and...read more

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