September 17, 2019
Dear Chairman Allen and members of the Judiciary Committee,
GLAA asks that you hold hearings and advance the Tony Hunter and Bella Evangelista Panic Defense Prohibition Act of 2019. Panic defenses, much like the gaslighting of an abuser, seek to blame the victim for the acts of the perpetrator. Courts do not accept that gaslighting as a legal defense for domestic abuse – so they most certainly should not allow for a similar defense that blames the existence of the victim for the perpetrator’s choices.
While the District has progressive laws and policies, panic defenses have been used in our courts – in cases prosecuted by the USAO. The use of this defense includes the murder of Tony Hunter, who died after being attacked while on his way to a gay bar in the Shaw District. According to court records, the man arrested for the attack told police that he punched Hunter in self-defense after Hunter touched him in a sexually suggestive way. Another example is that of Bella Evangelista, a transgender woman of color who was murdered in 2003. In her case, the defendant blamed her for the violence by arguing that he became enraged when he discovered Bella’s gender identity.
Our existence does not constitute incitement and therefore should not be grounds for a legal defense. The fact that this defense has been used in the District of Columbia makes the need for the Tony Hunter and Bella Evangelista Panic Defense Prohibition Act of 2019 clear. We ask that you affirm our right to exist by advancing this bill.
For any questions, please reach out to GLAA President Bobbi Strang at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bobbi Elaine Strang
Cc: All D.C. Council Members