Gay Hate Crime Case Ends in ‘Not Guilty’

By Pamela Bond

North Texas Daily

March 21, 2007

After hearing Denton’s first gay hate crime case in many years, a petit jury of six members decided on a “not guilty” verdict in The State of Texas v. George Clifton Young.

The charge against Young — misdemeanor assault causing bodily injury — carries a maximum of a one-year prison sentence. Trying the case as a hate crime could have added six months to that sentence.

The two-day trial centered on the events of Dec. 3, 2005, when Denton Mental Health/Mental Retardation employee Chris McKee was allegedly beaten in the Fry Street area and verbally harassed with slurs about homosexuality. He later identified Young as the attacker, but testimonies during the trial caused the jury to question that identification.

The defense’s main argument rested on Young’s misidentification, but also pointed to discrepancies between McKee’s statement to police, his letter to the editor of the North Texas Daily and his MySpace journal entry.

The night of the incident, McKee, an open homosexual, and his friend, Sherry Stewart, went bar-hopping, starting with Cool Beans and ending up outside the Fry Street Tavern. After exiting the bar at about 2 a.m., McKee said he kissed a male friend on the cheek.

McKee said he immediately heard snickering over his shoulder, which he assumed was because of the kiss. He and Stewart ignored the remarks and began walking toward her car parked on the street.

McKee and Stewart said they continued walking, but started to hear slurs about “this faggot” from the two men behind them, who were discussing “kicking his a–.”

McKee and Stewart got into the car, with Stewart in the driver’s seat and McKee in the passenger seat. However, before McKee could shut the door, one of the men, described as tall and thin, grabbed the car door, held it open and swiftly kicked McKee twice on his upper leg. McKee said he struggled to call 911 on his cell phone, which he held in his left hand, and hold the car door shut with his right hand while the man was pulling on the door.

Then, the other man came over, who was much larger and stronger, and pulled the car door open before slamming it on McKee’s wrist. McKee said he shouted at the two men that he had called police, and they ran off in opposite directions on Fry Street.

Stewart said in her testimony that she followed one of the men north on Fry Street, and McKee said he followed the other, who was running south on Fry Street. A police officer riding a bicycle who had heard the 911 dispatch came up to McKee, and he lost sight of the person he had been following. The other, thinner man was never identified.

More police officers came to the scene, and McKee and Stewart said they described to them what had occurred. The officers told them to call if they ever spotted either of the men again. The two drove back to Stewart’s apartment and took pictures of McKee’s injuries at about 6 a.m.

Ten days later, McKee and Stewart said they were back at the bars on Fry Street. They saw Young, whom they believed to be the attacker who slammed the car door on McKee’s wrist, and called the police.

“The police officer said, his exact words were, are you 300 percent sure this is him,” McKee said. “And I said ‘yes, sir, I absolutely am.’ He said he’d write a report.”

Stewart said she recognized the man from his voice.

On the morning of Thursday, March 8, the day the trial started, TV media interviewed an anxious McKee outside the Denton Courthouse on McKinney Street. County Criminal Court No. 2. Judge Virgil Vahlenkamp, heard the case throughout that day and Friday.

The state, represented by Susan Piel and Charles Orbison, called McKee, Stewart and other witnesses to testify about the events that occurred on Dec. 3.

However, in his opening remarks, defense attorney Coby Waddill said that McKee’s motivation during the trial was not pursuing justice but promoting a homosexual agenda.

“I think it goes to motivation about why he’s here to testify,” Waddill said. “I made the argument in my opening statement that he [McKee] has motivation over the cause of the direction of homosexuals.”

During the trial, Waddill also pointed to discrepancies between McKee’s MySpace journal entry, his submission to the Daily about the incident and his original statement to police.

Key testimonies came from Young’s coworkers. One of them testified that during the night of the attack, he stayed with Young, and others testified that he came to work at about 5 a.m. The defense’s main argument, supported by this testimony, was that McKee misidentified Young as his attacker.

After the verdict was released, Jamie Beck, assistant to the district attorney said McKee had his day in court.

Case Leaves Legacy

By Pamela Bond

North Texas Daily

Jan. 24, 2006

CLICK HERE to see a PDF of the newspaper page this story was printed on

CLICK HERE to see a PDF of the newspaper page this story was printed on continued

Yesterday marked the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which liberalized abortion in the U.S. by declaring laws against abortion violated the constitutional right to privacy. In 1973, when the decision passed, it inspired a controversy between political parties.

Not much has changed. Thirty-three years later, the issue of abortion is still a debated topic in politics. It has divided the nation’s political system into pro-life versus pro-choice and has prompted scientific research on the developing stages of the fetus and psychological affects of abortion, such as post-abortion syndrome.

Yesterday, anti-abortion protestors gathered at the foot of Capitol Hill. President George W. Bush called from Manhattan, Kan. to assure protestors that they were pursuing a “noble cause” and that “we’re working to persuade more of our fellow Americans of the rightness of our cause” (AP – Washington).

On Saturday, there was a pro-life rally in downtown Dallas. NT’s Young Conservatives of Texas organization attended the rally to show their support for the pro-life movement.

“Numerous logical reasons and facts prove the humanity of the unborn and, therefore, the need to protect life under the law,” states the Eagles for Life website, http://orgs.unt.edu/elf.

While conservative Americans are urging for the Roe v. Wade decision to be overturned, liberals are trying to uphold it.

“The case definitely changed politics and it’s now one of the most decisive issues; parties are divided on it,” said Adam Silva, Irving junior and president of College Democrats of NT. “Even someone who knows little about politics knows each parties’ stance on the issue. I think you’re going to see a lot of Democrats voting against Alito, who is pro-life, since abortion is a big issue for nominations.”

The continuing debate over abortion issues is why Roe v. Wade is such well known Supreme Court case, which is often referred to in political science textbooks and classes.

“It’s significant because since Roe v. Wade we have been continuing to fight and struggle over this issue,” said Kimi King, associate professor of political science. “We will undoubtedly continue to struggle, just as other countries struggle, over the issues of population inclines and planned parenthood.”

Since the decision, other Supreme Court cases, such as Griswold v. Connecticut, which legalized contraceptives, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld the Roe v. Wade decision, have furthered the pro-choice agenda.

According to the pro-choice movement, human life occurs during the third trimester, the gestational stage of pregnancy where brain cells have begun to develop and the fetus can survive outside the mother’s body. Therefore, an abortion before this time is not considered murdering a human life, but merely a mass of cells.

However, the pro-life front has become more vocal and organized since the decision as well. Originally, the Catholic Church was the main opposition to the decision legalizing abortion. Today, many Protestant churches, as well as other organizations, have joined the movement.

The pro-life movement states that human life begins upon conception and the unborn are therefore guaranteed “life, liberty and happiness” under the construction – the key word, of course, being “life.”

Since the pro-life movement is technically on the offensive side of the issue, their task is to overturn the decision, while the pro-choice movement defends it.

“As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said, a generation of women, actually two generations of women now, have gown up with Roe v. Wade,” King said. “To the extent that is has remained precedent, it will become increasingly difficult for the court to reverse it. And because opinions are hotly divided on the topic, we will see more legislation that will continue to attempt to limit access to abortion.”

The “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade, Norma McCorvey, has actually switched sides and is now fighting against the ruling. Her conversion to Christianity prompted her to seek an overturn of Roe v. Wade. In a press conference held in January 2005, she claimed to be a “pawn” of her ambitious lawyer, Sarah Weddington, and to suffer emotional and psychological harm because of the abortion.

The Texas Court of Appeals struck down McCorvey’s request for an overturn in 2003 due to matters of timeliness – it had simply been too long since the original ruling. In 2005, the Supreme Court also denied her requests.

Over the last 33 years, America has been divided over abortion issues. In the future, it will probably continue to do so, as an end to the debate does not appear to be coming soon, according to King.

“Watch closely over the next couple of years on abortion limits, especially the shift on the bench, with O’Connor’s retirement,” King said. “In 1993, she was a swing vote in a case (Planned Parenthood v. Casey) that narrowly upheld Roe v. Wade. Upcoming cases will present the first opportunity in over 30 years where the court could conceivably strike down abortion.”

Campus Reacts to Miers’ Nomination

By Pamela Bond

North Texas Daily

Oct. 11, 2005

CLICK HERE to see a PDF of the newspaper page this story was printed on

In addition to White House staff secretary, deputy chief of staff and assistant to the president, Harriet Miers might soon add Supreme Court Justice to her resume. On Oct. 3, President Bush nominated the 60–year-old White House counsel to replace the retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

“I think he’s [Bush] looking for someone who shares his judicial philosophy and political outlook, and can be confirmed,” assistant professor of political science Dr. Wendy Watson said.

However, it is not currently clear what exactly Miers’s political opinions are, as she has not served as a judge before.

“She doesn’t have the same kind of political experience as recent nominees – she would be the only one in the court without any judicial experience,” assistant professor of political science Dr. Corey Ditslear said. “Even her political experience is limited compared with the others.”

However, lack of judicial experience has not stopped past justices, such as John Marshall, William Rehnquist and Earl Warren, from being confirmed, nor did it stop Bush from nominating her.

“The president knows her, and knows what she stands for,” Ditslear said. “But he has to convince everyone else that she’s qualified.”

Miers also differs from current justices because she did not attend Harvard, and instead graduated with her J.U. from Southern Methodist University in 1970.

After graduating, she was the first woman to work at the Locke Purnell, Rain & Harrell firm, now Locke, Liddell & Sapp, in Dallas from 1972-2000, where she eventually became a co-managing partner. During her time as a trial litigator, she represented such clients as Microsoft and Walt Disney.

Also during her time as a lawyer, Miers became the first woman president of the Dallas Bar Association in 1985 and then the first woman president of the Texas State Bar Association in 1992. She also served as Chair for the Texas Lottery Commission from 1995 to 2000.

In 2000, Miers served as a personal lawyer for Bush’s campaign, advising him in areas such as the allegations about his time in the National Guard. She has worked in the White House since then and in February 2005 became counsel to the president.

“I’m sure he [Bush] nominated her because he knows she will not legislate from the bench – she will simply interpret the Constitution,” Denton County Republican Chairman Dianne Edmondson said.

Before the Senate confirms or rejects Miers’s nomination, the judicial committee will compile a report on Miers and her judicial philosophy through background checks and courtesy meetings with key senators.

Next, the judicial committee will send its recommendation to the Senate, which will then debate the appointment. It takes three-fifths of the Senate, or 60 Senators, to end the debate and move the Senate into a final vote. To be appointed, a simple majority of the Senate needs to vote for a nominee to be confirmed.

“It’s safe to say that the court will change dramatically,” Watson said. “It’s such a small group of people; any appointment will change its dynamics.”