Virginia lawmakers passed a bill that will ban the use of a person’s perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity as a defense in court for the assault or murder of an LGBTQ person.
“It’s done: We’re banning the gay/trans panic defense in Virginia,” Del. Danica Roem, D-Manassas, said in a Twitter post.
Roem introduced House Bill 2132, which passed the Senate 23-15 on Thursday with an amendment. The House approved the amendment in a 58-39 vote. The bill now heads to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk for a signature.
The Senate amendment adds oral solicitation or hitting on someone, as an unacceptable justification for the gay or transgender panic defense.
The panic defense has historically been used in cases where a member of the LGBTQ community was attacked because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Defendants use the panic defense to justify “heat of passion” murders or assaults.
“This [bill] means someone’s mere existence as an LGBTQ person does not excuse someone else and does not constitute a reasonable provocation to commit such a heat of passion attack,” Roem said.
The statute does not dismiss traditional self-defense lawsuits. This means LGBTQ people can still be prosecuted for attacking someone.
There have been at least eight instances in Virginia where the panic defense was used, with the last case in 2011, according to Carsten Andresen, a researcher and criminal justice professor from Austin, Texas. He said he has tracked 200 homicide cases nationally where the panic defense was attempted. Andresen reached out to Roem in support of the bill.
His research included five murders and three assaults in Virginia between 1973 and 2011 that Andresen said used the panic defense to justify or excuse a defendant’s violent actions. Mark Hayes murdered Tracie Gainer, a transgender woman, in 2002. Hayes claimed he “lost it” and murdered Gainer after engaging in sexual intercourse. In 2011, Deandre Moore, age 18, pleaded guilty to killing 20-year-old Jacques Cowell by stabbing him multiple times. Cowell was openly gay and there were witness accounts that the two had a physical relationship. Moore received a 40-year prison sentence, with 15 years suspended.
“In these cases, criminal defense attorneys used gay and trans panic defense to put the victim (rather than the offender) on trial,” Andresen wrote in support of the bill. He said the use of the panic defense “suggests that it is permissible to commit violence” against LGBTQ people.
Sen. Joseph Morrissey, D-Richmond, spoke in opposition of the bill, saying lawmakers should not pass laws that prohibit defendants from making a defense and that lawmakers would be going “down a very slippery slope.” Morrissey said any defendant who would offer the panic defense “would of course be rejected.”
Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, said this is not the first time Virginia has expressly prohibited a defense. Legislators repealed in 2008 the code section that provided defense from carnal knowledge when a defendant marries a child 14 years or older.
“When we have found an affirmative defense to be abhorrent to public policy we have gotten rid of it,” McClellan said.
McClellan said she wished she could agree with Morrissey that no judge would accept the panic defense, but referred back to the Virginia cases where it was used successfully.
“We know the bill is constitutional, we know also, the bill has existing precedence, which is why it has earned overwhelming bipartisan support in statehouses across the country,” Roem said.
The American Bar Association in 2013 recommended that local, state, and federal legislatures curtail the availability and effectiveness of the gay and transgender panic defense. Roem said that similar bills have been implemented in other state legislatures. Virginia will become the 12th state to ban the panic defense, according to the policy organization Movement Advancement Project.
The defense is also banned in the District of Columbia.
There are currently 39 states that allow the panic defense to be used in cases where hate crimes resulted in the assault or murder of an LGBTQ individual. This typically results in a murder charge being lessened to a charge of manslaughter or acquittal.
Roem said she worked with Wes Bizzell, president of the National LGBT Bar Association, to prepare the bill. She also thanked Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard, for speaking in support of the bill in committee.
Matthew Shepard, a gay man, was murdered in 1998 in Laramie, Wyoming. The judge barred Aaron McKinney’s defense lawyer from using the gay panic defense in the murder trial. McKinney said Shepard’s advances triggered memories of sexual abuse he suffered as a child. Police said the crime was motivated by robbery, but Shepard’s sexual orientation likely made him the target. There were four people involved in the brutal crime. Two were found guilty of murder and two were charged with being an accessory after the fact to first-degree murder.
Roem was in high school when Matthew Shepard was murdered. She said the case had a profound effect on her and prevented her from coming out due to a fear of being ostracized and attacked.
“It was requested to me by one of my Manassas Park student constituents who’s out, hoping not to have to live in the same fear in 2021 that I did in 1998,” Roem said of the bill.
Roem said there are people who don’t believe hate crimes such as the one against Shepard happen today in Virginia. She affirmed that they do happen, and she believes it is time to do something about it.
“We have to look at this from the perspective of ‘what do we do to make an affirmative statement that LGBTQ lives matter and that you can’t just kill us for existing,” Roem said.
By Cierra Parks
Capital News Service
Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.
Virginia launches playing cards designed to solve cold cases
On August 11, 2022, Attorney General Miyares announced that playing cards to help close unsolved homicides have been distributed to Richmond City Justice Center inmates for recreational use. The Attorney General partnered with the Richmond Sheriff’s Office, Richmond Police Department, Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, and Crime Stoppers to launch this project.
“The loss of a murdered loved one is devastating. Not receiving justice makes it even worse. I’m hopeful that this creative tool will help law enforcement provide answers and justice to these families,” said Attorney General Miyares.
“Families of loved ones who were taken from our community deserve closure, and we’ve seen this be an effective resource in other jurisdictions,” said Richmond Chief of Police Gerald Smith.”We are proud to participate in this endeavor as this is a creative method for generating interest and information on pending cases that could help generate new leads.”
The deck of playing cards, in the four standard suits, displays a photograph, name, and case details, while the reverse side includes the P3 tip line information and how to provide information regarding the case. The goal is that current inmates will recognize the face of the victim or remember a detail that could help law enforcement close the case.
If the inmate does have information, a family member or themselves would contact the tip line. If the information is valid and valuable, a reward will be given.
August recognized as Hidden Heroes Month in Virginia
Governor Glenn Youngkin has officially recognized August as Hidden Heroes Month in the Commonwealth of Virginia to honor the millions of military and veteran caregivers in Virginia and throughout the United States who care for those wounded, ill, or injured who have served our nation throughout wars and conflicts.
“Virginia is proud to partner with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and their Hidden Heroes program to support and acknowledge caregivers that receive little support or acknowledgment for their selfless sacrifices,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “In fact, most of these Hidden Heroes simply consider the challenging work they do as unconditional love or carrying out their civic and patriotic duty, without realizing they should be categorized as caregivers. I call on all my fellow Virginians to join me in thanking and supporting them. They deserve nothing less.”
“As a veteran, I have seen the devotion that these caregivers provide every day to their loved ones who sacrificed so much for our Nation,” said Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Craig Crenshaw. “If Virginia is going to remain the best state for veterans and their families to live, work and thrive, we must never forget how important these Hidden Heroes are and provide them with the support they need and deserve. This we pledge to do today and always.”
“I’ve seen first-hand the tremendous impact 5.5 million young spouses, mothers, dads, siblings, and other loved ones make in the lives of wounded warriors every day, in neighborhoods large and small, in states like Virginia and across the country,” said Senator Elizabeth Dole, Founder of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. “Today, we are one step closer to ensuring that these caregivers are woven into the fabric of our nation’s appreciation of the military. My heartfelt thanks to Governor Youngkin and his team for their strong support of military caregivers, America’s hidden heroes.”
“For those Hidden Heroes throughout Virginia who would like to know what resources are available for them in their community and for others who wish to help these caregivers, all of us at the Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS) stand ready to assist,” said Daniel Gade, Commissioner of DVS.
In the Certificate of Recognition, Governor Youngkin recognizes that many of these caregivers are the parents, spouses, siblings, and friends of these wounded, ill, or injured men and women. Their daily tasks can include bathing, feeding, dressing, and dressing grievous injuries, administering medications, providing emotional support, caring for the family and home, and working outside the home to earn essential income.
For more information about the Hidden Heroes Program and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, go to www.HiddenHeroes.org or www.elizabethdolefoundation.org.
About the Virginia Department of Veterans Services
The Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS) is a state government agency with more than 40 locations across the Commonwealth of Virginia. VDVS traces its history to 1928 and the establishment of the Virginia War Service Bureau to assist Virginia’s World War I veterans. Today, DVS assists veterans and their families in filing claims for federal veterans benefits; provides veterans and family members with linkages to services including behavioral healthcare, housing, employment, education, and other programs. The agency operates long-term care facilities offering in-patient skilled nursing care, Alzheimer’s/memory care, and short-term rehabilitation for veterans; provides an honored final resting place for veterans and their families at three state veterans cemeteries. It operates the Virginia War Memorial, the Commonwealth’s tribute to Virginia’s men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice from World War II to the present. For more information, please visit www.dvs.virginia.gov.
For questions regarding caregiver programs in Virginia, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit your local DVS office.
MurLarkey Distilled Spirits to invest more than $8M, create 42 new jobs
RICHMOND, VA – Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that the highly awarded MurLarkey Distilled Spirits will be relocating and expanding its operations within Prince William County. The company, currently located in Bristow, will establish a large new distillery and tasting room on the campus of Farm Brew LIVE in Innovation Park, Manassas. The 12-acre entertainment area, owned by Marcus Silva of Villagio Hospitality Group, is home to 2Silos Brewing, the Black Sheep restaurant, and a live music venue, drawing over 10,000 visitors weekly. The company sources 100% of its grain from Virginia farms and through this project will increase its production eight-fold over the next three years. The project represents nearly $8.1M in new investment, 42 new jobs, and over the next three years will lead to an additional $429,860 (885,000 pounds) in purchases of Virginia-grown grains.
“Virginia’s food and beverage industry continues to thrive as surging consumer spending and our world-class business environment combine to give company after company confidence that they can grow and succeed in the Commonwealth,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “With burdensome pandemic restrictions behind us, this growth and optimism is especially evident in our craft beverage sector as returning consumers bring newfound vibrancy to the industry.”
“Virginia’s craft beverage industry provides Virginia’s farmers a great way to connect with consumers. I commend companies like MurLarkey who are helping to build that connection by committing to sourcing 100% of their grain from the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matthew Lohr. “MurLarkey’s continued investment in Prince William County represents the company’s commitment to the region and to Virginia’s grain producers, who are successfully marketing their Virginia-grown inputs to the industry.”
“MurLarkey is both humbled and honored by the amazing support we have received from our state, county and local community. We’re excited to expand upon and further enhance the guest experience which MurLarkey has become famous for,” said MurLarkey CEO Thomas Murray. “What started as a second career / family business has evolved into something which truly touches people, something broader reaching; much more than a craft spirits brand, MurLarkey has become a true lifestyle brand leading Virginia’s bourgeoning Spirit Trail. This new facility will enable us to continue this journey on the Farm Brew LIVE campus with The Villagio Group as an incredible strategic partner allowing us to better accommodate our local aficionados, patrons and tourists from far and wide seeking the MurLarkey experience.”
“MurLarkey has always had the pioneering spirit, so it’s no surprise they are Prince William County’s first AFID Facility Grant award,” said Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chair Ann B. Wheeler. “We are thrilled to embrace and invest in agribusinesses that make our county a destination for residents and visitors from around the region.”
“Home-grown, family-owned small businesses like MurLarkey Distilled Spirits are vital to the character of our region’s business community,” said Senator Jeremy S. McPike. “From the company’s contributions during COVID producing and donating hand sanitizer, to their commitment to using only local ingredients in their award winning spirits, MurLarkey shows that businesses like these are not only important drivers of our economy, but also represent the fine character of our community.”
“Entrepreneurship and collaboration are what makes our economy strong, so it is terrific to see some of our finest entrepreneurs, Tom Silva and the MurLarkey team, join together to create a great new business and amenity for the community,” said Delegate Michelle Maldonado. “I wish MurLarkey the best in this new venture and look forward to celebrating with them once they open.”
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services worked with Prince William County and MurLarkey Distilled Spirits to secure this project for Virginia with a $250,000 grant from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund, which Prince Williams County will match with local funds. This is Prince William County’s first ever AFID Facility Grant award, an economic development tool to help localities support new and expanding agriculture- and forestry-based businesses.
Founded in 2013 by brothers Mike and Jim Larkin and their cousin Tom Murray, MurLarkey Distilled Spirits is a family-owned business using exclusively Virginia-grown corn, rye and barley to produce award-winning spirits representative of the founders’ Irish heritage. Through the work of Jim Larkin their COO and Master Distiller George “Papi” Zwetkow, MurLarkey has earned dozens of top awards for their spirits and their visitor experience. The company also received Prince William County’s 2020 Human Rights Award for providing more than 3,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to the community during the pandemic. In addition to supporting Virginia farmers through a major increase in production, the company will continue to offer all its spent grain to local farmer’s free-of-charge for use as cattle feed.
Attorney General Miyares joins 22 states in support of ending unlawful CDC mandate
Attorney General Jason Miyares joined 22 states in filing an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff in Health Freedom Defense Fund Inc. vs. Joseph R. Biden, Jr., President of the United States. The attorneys general argue that the district court correctly vacated the federal mask mandate. President Biden’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s interstate travel mask mandate exceeds its authority and infringes on each state’s ability to enact its own public health rules.
“Mask Mandates across the country have been lifted in virtually every aspect of daily life. For months, Americans have been traveling safely while making their own autonomous decisions. The CDC mask mandate on public transportation, like air travel, is obsolete and no longer necessary – not to mention a clear example of federal overreach,” said Attorney General Miyares.
In a brief filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, the attorneys general argue that the CDC’s unlawful mandate exceeds the agency’s authority in several ways.
First, the CDC grounds its authority to issue a mask mandate in its power to require “sanitation” measures under 42 U.S.C. § 264(a). That authority cannot support the mandate. Additionally, according to the statute, the CDC cannot demand that domestic travelers be examined without evidence that they are carrying disease—but that is what the mandate requires, a visual inspection of every traveler without any individualized suspicion.
The brief also argues that the mandate is invalid because it failed to go through notice and comment procedures. The CDC rule is arbitrary and capricious, with numerous exceptions that the agency did not explain or justify. Beyond that, the rule violates the agency’s own regulations. The brief states: “CDC regulations say that it cannot act unless it finds local measures inadequate. But here, the CDC never even studied local measures, much less developed a method to determine whether those measures are adequate.”
Attorney General Miyares joins the attorneys general of the following states in filing the brief: Florida, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.
136th generation of new Virginia State Police Troopers graduate
On Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, the Commonwealth will graduate its 136th generation of Virginia State Troopers. The 18 new troopers will be presented their diplomas during commencement exercises at 10 a.m. at the State Police Training Academy located at 7700 Midlothian Turnpike in Chesterfield County.
“The 136th has completed one of the toughest law enforcement academies in the country and are now joining a long line of distinguished troopers,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “2022 marks the 90th anniversary of the Virginia State Police and these new troopers will forever be part of our valued history. We are proud to have them as part of the Virginia State Police family.”
The new troopers have received more than 1,300 hours of classroom and field instruction in more than 100 different subjects, including de-escalation techniques, strategies to assist people in mental health crisis, ethics and leadership, fair and impartial policing, constitutional law, emergency medical trauma care, and public and community relations. The members of the 136th Basic Session began their 28 weeks of academic, physical and practical training at the Academy Jan. 26, 2022.
The soon-to-be graduates of the 136th Basic Session are from every corner of the Commonwealth, as well as California, Iowa, Maryland, New Hampshire and Washington.
Upon graduation, the new troopers will report to their individual duty assignments. For their final phase of training, each trooper will spend an additional six weeks paired up with a Field Training Officer learning his or her new patrol area.
136th BASIC GRADUATING CLASS:
Name – Hometown – Assignment
- Gilmar Raymund Bulado Alcasid – Lakewood, California – Portsmouth/Suffolk/Chesapeake
- Usman Asif – Leesburg – Fairfax
- Emily Marie Ball – Meriden, New Hampshire – Prince William
- Cornelius Clyde Boykins, Jr. – Williamsburg – Prince William
- Jarrad Jeffrey Byrd – Gate City – Prince William
- Patrick Arthur Cantrell – Pound – Botetourt
- Jason B. Chatman, Jr. – Richmond – Henrico
- Morgan Bethany Douglas – Chesterfield – Dinwiddie
- Coltin Allen King – Fort Chiswell – Fluvanna
- Clayton Ander Linville – Richmond – Hanover/Henrico
- Noah Aaron Maxfield – Castlewood – Rockbridge
- Andrew Ray Murley – Sac City, Iowa – Rockingham
- Jimmy Williams Nguyen – Frederick, Maryland – Fairfax
- Joshua Michael Nowacki – Fredericksburg – Stafford
- Bryan Baxter Pitts – Puyallup, Washington – Hampton/Newport News
- Justin Lee Ramey – Sperryville – Rockingham
- Nicholas Ryan Thompson – Chesapeake – Hampton/Newport News
- Roosevelt Westbrook – Norfolk – Norfolk/Virginia Beach
Virginia-based conservation company to construct first commercial pyrolysis facility in the Commonwealth
RICHMOND, VA – On August 8, 2022, Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that Restoration Bioproducts LLC will construct the Commonwealth’s first biochar production facility in Sussex County. Co-located in the Town of Waverly with wood pellet manufacturer Wood Fuel Developers, the company will use pyrolysis technology to convert waste wood from the mill into biochar and syngas, a form of natural gas. Over the next three years, Restoration Bioproducts will invest $5.8 million into a new facility, create five high-paying jobs and purchase 34,560 tons of Virginia-grown wood products, while also bringing major business benefits to Wood Fuel Developers.
“Technology and entrepreneurship are powerful forces driving the Commonwealth’s economy forward. Today’s announcement is further evidence that Virginia is the location of choice for companies looking to transform their industries through innovation,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “I congratulate Sussex County on bringing a first-of-its-kind green energy project to Virginia and commend Restoration Bioproducts for demonstrating the power of private-sector led, sustainable waste solutions.”
“Forestry is Virginia’s third largest private sector industry and is often the major economic driver in many of our rural communities. Therefore it is critical that entrepreneurs and innovators, like Restoration Bioproducts, apply new technologies to solve the business problems of today,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matthew Lohr. “This project highlights the power of collaboration and sustainable solutions, two hallmarks of a thriving forest products industry.”
“Our partners have all worked in Virginia for many years, and we are very pleased to bring our first project using this exciting new technology to the Town of Waverly and Sussex County,” said Jeff Waldon, Managing Partner of Restoration Bioproducts LLC. “Pyrolysis and biochar application has been identified as an important technological approach to assisting agricultural producers improve soil health, and sequester carbon in soils to address climate change.”
“Sussex County is thrilled that Restoration Bioproducts chose to locate its operations in one of Virginia’s timber industry hubs. We’re excited by the innovative potential of their biochar and syngas products and wish them the greatest success,” said Susan Seward, Chair of the Sussex County Board of Supervisors. “We also greatly appreciate our partnership with the Town of Waverly and the Commonwealth in bringing this new business to the county.”
“We’re excited to welcome Restoration Bioproducts to Waverly. The jobs, revenue, and overall activity emanating from their facility will bring additional vitality back to our growing town,” said Angela McPhaul, Mayor, Town of Waverly. “Thank you to the Commonwealth of Virginia and Sussex County for partnering with us to make this a reality.”
“We are always looking for innovative businesses to join our community here in Sussex County and Southern Virginia, and Restoration Bioproducts is exactly that,” said Senator L. Louise Lucas. “I am very excited about this announcement and the sustainable solutions this project brings to our community and the Commonwealth.”
“I am pleased Restoration Bioproducts has chosen to invest in Sussex County for the Commonwealth’s first commercial pyrolysis facility,” said Delegate Otto Wachsmann. “Innovative green energy investments like this not only bring new jobs and economic boost to our community, but will also help preserve the quality of life we all enjoy.”
Restoration Bioproducts is a Virginia-based, private-sector conservation company that provides custom-engineered, environmentally-sustainable business solutions for companies dealing with agricultural or forestry waste. The company deploys pyrolysis-based solutions to sustainably produce biochar and syngas.
Biochar is a highly-porous, stable and carbon-rich charcoal-like product with a variety of applications, but is most commonly used as an agricultural soil amendment, odor absorber or animal feed additive. For this project, the syngas will be used to power the pyrolysis reaction chamber, as well as a 500kw electric generator to provide low-cost, behind-the-meter electricity to Wood Fuel Developers. In this win-win project, Restoration Bioproducts benefits from a guaranteed supply of low-cost biomass and market for its electricity, while Wood Fuel Developers is offloading nuisance wood waste and reducing the costs associated with utility-supplied electricity.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services worked with Sussex County and Restoration Bioproducts LLC to secure this project for the Commonwealth. Governor Youngkin approved a $50,000 grant from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund, which Sussex County and the Town of Waverly will match with local funds.