Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed a bill on 14-7-2020 banning the so-called “panic defense” in court, meaning that defendants can no longer blame victims’ sexual orientation or gender identity for their violent actions.
Colorado will become the eleventh US state to ban the defense, following states such as Rhode Island, New Jersey, California and New York. The bill, signed by the first openly gay elected governor, will add further protections for the LGBTQ community. Previously, the “panic defense” has been used to excuse the violent actions of defendants as temporary insanity as a result of a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Some provisions of the Act reads:
18-1-704. Use of physical force in defense of a person – definitions. (3) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, a person is not justified in using physical force if:
(b) He OR SHE is the initial aggressor; except that his OR HER use of physical force upon another person under the circumstances is justifiable if he OR SHE withdraws from the encounter and effectively communicates to the other person his OR HER intent to do so, but the latter nevertheless continues or threatens the use of unlawful physical force; or
(c) The physical force involved is the product of a combat by agreement not specifically authorized by law; OR
(d) THE USE OF PHYSICAL FORCE AGAINST ANOTHER IS BASED ON THE DISCOVERY OF, KNOWLEDGE ABOUT, OR POTENTIAL DISCLOSURE OF THE VICTIM’S ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED GENDER, GENDER IDENTITY, GENDER EXPRESSION, OR SEXUAL ORIENTATION, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO UNDER CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH THE VICTIM MADE AN UNWANTED NONFORCIBLE ROMANTIC OR SEXUAL ADVANCE TOWARD THE DEFENDANT. NOTHING IN THIS SUBSECTION (3)(d) PRECLUDES THE ADMISSION OF EVIDENCE, WHICH IS OTHERWISE ADMISSIBLE, OF A VICTIM’S OR WITNESS’S CONDUCT, BEHAVIOR, OR STATEMENTS.
It is largely believed that this bill will ensure that in cases of violence or murder trials, there is no discriminatory bias, encouraging a fairer trial. It also reflects the sense of sensitivity towards the LGBTQ communities and would prevent hate crimes to which these communities are vulnerable.
The bill was supported by 22 other elected district attorneys and was signed along with other legislation strengthening protections for the LGBTQ community, including coverage for HIV/AIDS prevention medication.
See the Bill: