February 20, 2009

February 20, 2009
Ryan Skipper Murder Trial Update

Thanks for joining me for another day in my life. We started off with a very windy and stormy morning but the weather dramatically improved by lunch time. The rest of the day was sunny and warm.

I started off my morning with my protein shake and a shoulder, lat and forearm workout. Then it was time to dive into all the calls and emails I still have to return. One of the emails I received today was concerning the Ryan Skipper murder trial.

As the trial of Ryan Skipper's accused murderer unfolds, it is clear that anti-gay hatred played a significant role in Ryan's murder. According to a witness who took the stand yesterday:

"He (Bearden) said he did not like gays."

Prosecutors then revealed that the same witness previously told police:

"(Bearden) felt he was doing the world a favor by getting rid of one more faggot."

Today is just the third full day of the trial of Joseph Bearden, one of the two accused murderers of Ryan Skipper. Ryan was a well loved young gay man who lived his life openly in one of Florida's most rural and conservative areas: Polk County.

In March of 2007, Ryan was brutally stabbed 19 times. According to witnesses, two suspects drove Ryan's blood soaked car around and bragged to their friends about savagely killing him.

After a month of scant attention in the media following Ryan's murder, Equality Florida joined with Ryan's family and friends to host a 14 city vigil to commemorate Ryan and to shine a spotlight on the epidemic of anti-LGBT hate violence. Over 1,000 people came out to show their love and support and to condemn the media's lack of coverage.

Hate crime laws provide a penalty enhancement in Florida. However, since Bearden is being tried for capital murder, there is no greater penalty. While the prosecutor has chosen to downplay to hate crime aspect of Ryan's murder during trial, Ryan's family has stood strong in their resolve to shine a light on the horrible impact hate crimes have on families and communities.

To that end, they issued the following statement on the first day of the trial:

"Our son, Ryan Skipper, was a beautiful human being and a gift to our family and his friends. That gift has been taken away from all of us and nothing will change that.

This trial will be painful to all who love Ryan and cherish his memory. We are grateful to everyone who has sent their love and support to our family from the tragic day to the beginning of this trial.

We know that hate is at the root of this terrible crime. While Florida has a hate crime penalty enhancement law, we recognize that a hate crime charge is not being pursued because a first degree murder conviction already brings the harshest penalty the court can impose.

We will continue to speak out against prejudice and hate violence. Anti-gay hate crimes have increased dramatically in Florida over the past 5 years according to reports from the Florida Attorney General. We all have a responsibility to speak out against hate crimes and we all must seek justice for the victims.

We have been advised to prepare for "blame-the-victim" tactics, which are frequently used by those trying to escape justice. They have taken his life but we will not allow them to sully our memories of our son, brother and friend. Nothing that is said at trial could ever shake our confidence in that. We will remain focused on seeking justice for the life that has been taken. Ryan was loved and important to his family and friends, a good and valuable member of this community and society."

Take Action
Email Gov. Crist and Attorney General Bill McCollum. Ask them to loudly condemn the anti-gay hate violence brought to light by Ryan Skipper's murder.

Only when our state leadership loudly condemns hate violence, can we begin to heal that hate.

Wishing you health, hope and happiness.

Big bear hug,

Daddy Dab