Rashawn & Beyond: Anti-Violence News for Queer People of Color

The Rashawn Brazell Memorial Fund aims to establish a sustainable tribute to Rashawn that promotes critical thought about the impact of violence and intolerance, particularly upon queer communities of African descent.

Through this blog, we provide action alerts, event postings and breaking news as a means of informing these communities in ways that enable them to combat racism and homophobia.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Deal Possible in Gay Man's 2007 Murder

Source: Gay City News

The Brooklyn district attorney may consider a plea deal in the 2007 killing of Roberto Duncanson, a 20-year-old gay man.

"We're exploring the possibility of a disposition," said Benjamin Heinrich, the attorney for Omar Willock, the 18-year-old Brooklyn man charged with two counts of second-degree murder, one as a hate crime, in the Duncanson murder.

Heinrich spoke at a September 2 hearing in the case. The trial was supposed to start on that date, but with Neil J. Firetog, the judge in the case, still on vacation, that date was moved to October 6 .

Allegedly, Duncanson encountered Willock on the street in Brooklyn's Crown Heights section just before 1 a.m. on May 12. Willock, who used anti-gay slurs, accused Duncanson of looking at him. When Duncanson again passed by, a fight ensued and Willock stabbed Duncanson four times in the back, according to a 2007 statement from the district attorney. Duncanson died roughly one hour later at Kings County Hospital.

Willock was arrested five days later, but he surrendered to police with a lawyer and never gave a statement. The knife was never recovered.

The district attorney has two witnesses to the killing, only one of whom identified Willock, but that one witness knew Willock for roughly a year, making for a more reliable identification. Willock has a twin and presumably the witness can tell them apart.

Howard Jackson, the prosecutor in the case, said his office had not made any offers to Willock nor would it, but they would consider any offer that the defense made. Jackson said the defense had not come to him with a possible sentence or charge that Willock would plead to.

Heinrich did not respond to a call seeking comment.

Karen Palmer, Duncanson's mother, who has attended every pre-trial hearing in the case along with a large group of the victim's friends, said she was "neutral" about a deal.

Such a deal would have to be approved by Charles J. Hynes, the district attorney, who said in 2006 interview with Gay City News "I don't plea bar gain bias-related crimes. I don't do that... We're not going to tolerate attacks on members of this community."

Hynes made that comment when discussing the 2006 murder of Michael J. Sandy, a 29-year-old gay man. In that case, Hynes made a deal with one defendant to secure his testimony against the other three and, following the conviction of two defendants on manslaughter and robbery charges, his office made a deal with the fourth.

"Considering the spike in numbers with hate violence against LGBT communities, especially this past summer, we would hope the judge would send a strong and clear message that violence against the LGBT communities would not be tolerated," said Kim Fountain, deputy director at the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project (AVP).


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