Last night Jeffrey Payne, the owner of Dallas gay leather bar The Eagle, officially declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination to unseat Republican incumbent Greg Abbott as Texas Governor as reported by the Houston Chronicle:
He sees a lot of anti-incumbent sentiment among Texans fed up with what they see as dysfunction in Austin. He sees a lot of anti-Donald Trump backlash. He also sees the potential to rally the sizable LGBT community in Texas to mobilize like never before in the wake of continued efforts to pass a bathroom bill. And he sees a lot of disenchanted, disenfranchised Texans who might be attracted to an outsider promising big change.
Among the issues facing LGBT Texans is a so-called criminal justice system which seemingly is rigged against them.
Brandon Dale Woodruff was convicted in March 2009 of murdering his parents after Texas prosecutors presented a homophobic narrative against the gay boy which seemingly played well to a conservative jury in the Bible belt.
Among the homophobic arguments made was that because Brandon Woodruff -- only 19 at the time of the double murder -- was not out to all his old friends he was living a "double life" which evidenced a deceitful side. The state prosecutors might as well have just called him the talented Mr. Ripley. Of course, a gradual coming out process is relatively common among gay teens, and for prosecutors to argue that this process demonstrates a character flaw necessarily prejudiced Brandon Woodruff before the jury which did not have a high opinion of homosexuals to begin with. Indeed, out of the fourteen (including two alternate) jurors chosen to judge Brandon, eight of them "feel or believe that being homosexual or gay is morally wrong" according to the voir dire during the selection process. Would it be acceptable to impanel eight avowed white supremacists in a criminal trial involving a black defendant? And yet eight Texans who by their own admission viewed homosexuals as morally inferior to heterosexuals were allowed onto the jury panel to judge a gay boy.
The trial record tangibly demonstrates that the homophobic "double life" argument was a successful tactic in prejudically turning minds against Brandon Woodruff and deprived him of a fair trial. For example, a boyhood friend originally told the Texas Rangers who investigated the case that he did not believe Brandon was capable of murder. However, the investigators flipped his opinion by disclosing that Brandon liked guys. At trial state prosecutors asked this boyhood friend "would it be fair to say that the Brandon you thought you knew was not the Brandon you knew" to which he answered "yes." And then they immediately followed up with the question "is it fair to say that your opinion that you expressed to the Rangers back in November of 2005 as to his capability of doing this has changed?" An objection from defense counsel was sustained which precluded an answer but the question was left hanging before the jury which exposed the homophobic game state prosecutors were cynical playing.
The homophobic narrative against Brandon Woodruff is particularly egregious because there were so many investigative blunders and so little actual evidence, and one only can wonder on what basis the jury was relying upon in convicting him other than the fact he was gay.
If Jeffrey Payne genuinely wants to represent LGBT interests, then he must address the injustice done to Brandon Woodruff.