A Virginia Tech linebacker who allegedly killed a man he thought was a woman will reportedly use the Gay Panic Defense (GPD).
Isimemen Etute, 18, was suspended from the team after he was charged with second-degree murder in the June 2 beating death of Blacksburg, Virginia, resident Jerry Smith, 40.
Prosecutors say Etute allegedly told investigators he went to Smith’s apartment on April 10 for oral sex after he was matched with a woman named “Angie” on the Tinder dating app.
He said he returned to Smith’s apartment on May 31 for a second sexual encounter after he was matched with another woman on the app, according to Yahoo Sports. However, he became enraged when he discovered the “woman” was actually Smith.
Etute told police he punched Smith five times in the face and stomped the victim multiple times as he lay on the floor. Etute said he heard Smith “bubbling and gurgling” and left the apartment without calling the police or medics.
Smith’s body was found in his apartment 2 days later, Yahoo Sports reports.
According to the county medical examiner, Smith died from blunt force trauma to the head and face. Prosecutors said that Smith lost multiple teeth, had multiple skull fractures and every bone in his face was fractured.
Smith’s family called police to conduct a welfare check at his apartment after their phone calls went unanswered.
A family spokesperson described Smith as a proud, openly gay man who worked in the restaurant industry and wouldn’t harm a fly.
Etute, who was ranked 29th of Virginia Tech’s 2021 recruiting class, appeared at a bond hearing on Wednesday. He was released on $75,000 bail and is allowed to stay with family in Virginia Beach, on house arrest and electronic monitoring, until his trial in September.
Etute’s defense attorney, Jimmy Turk, implied that he would use a gay panic defense — even though the gay panic defense is banned in Virginia.
“I’m not saying what happened was acceptable, but this was more than someone just showing up to an apartment and punching someone,” Turk told the judge.
“Nobody deserves to die, but I don’t mind saying, don’t pretend you are something that you are not. Don’t target or lure anyone under that perception. That’s just wrong.”
Multiple Virginia Tech players were in attendance at the packed bond hearing, according to Yahoo Sports.
The gay panic defense (not to be confused with homosexual panic) is used by defense attorneys to reduce the charge for a client who is accused of assault or murder of a member of the LGBT+ community.
Gay panic occurs when the perpetrator temporarily loses his sanity and becomes extremely upset at a perceived threat to his manhood after the sexual orientation or gender of the victim is revealed.
The National LGBT Bar Association defines the gay panic defense as “a legal strategy which asks a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction, including murder.”