Jamie Beck, first assistant to Denton County District Attorney Paul Johnson, sheds some light on the "hate crime" trial that took place last week in Denton. On Friday, a jury acquitted George Clifton Young of assault under the Texas hate crime statute.
"We believed it was a hate crime," says Beck. "What happened was the victim was near the UNT campus at some of our local hangouts. It was closing time. Chris [McKee] kissed one of his friends goodbye, and as he was walking to his car, he was assaulted by two individuals. They threw slurs at him referencing that he was a homosexual."
Ten days after the beating, McKee identified Young as one of his assailants. "We've never been able to identify the other individual," Beck says . "It was a jury trial and the issue was whether he had correctly identified Mr. Young."
Young had an alibi. The crime occurred at about 2:30 a.m. Coworkers testified that they spent the night at Young's house and clocked in for work at 5:30 a.m.
"They all testified that Mr. Young was with him the entire time," Beck says. "I think Mr. McKee did an excellent job testifying. I think it came down to the identification."
She says prejudice against gays didn't affect the jury verdict at all. "Mr. McKee has been very complimentary of how we handled his case. I think he was pleased that he did have his day in court and that we pursued it as a hate crime."
But Deana Robinson, a close friend of McKee's, believes that bias against gays had an impact. To counter Young's alibi, the prosecution had had two eyewitnesses who testified that Young was one of the attackers. The detective who handled the case testified that he felt Chris was telling the truth. But the jury took only 45 minutes to render a verdict of not guilty.
"I just think Denton County is a very conservative county," says Robinson. "I do think they made great strides by prosecuting it as a hate crime." --Glenna Whitley