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Equality Florida bulletin: Ryan Skipper's killer found guilty

News release from Equality Florida:

Ryan Skipper's Killer Found Guilty

Skipper Today, Joseph Bearden, one of the two accused killers of Ryan Skipper, was found guilty of second-degree murder and robbery.

On March 15, 2007, Ryan Skipper was stabbed 19 times and left to die on a dirt road in Polk County, Florida. His death is a bloody reminder of the anti-gay hatred faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in our state.

Just days ago, a prosecution witness revealed that shortly after the killing, Joseph Bearden, the defendant, said, "He felt he was doing the world a favor by getting rid of one more faggot."

The 19 stab wounds that Ryan Skipper suffered are what the FBI calls 'overkill'. That's when the violence in an assault is beyond what would be necessary for a robbery and more than would even be required to take someone's life. Overkill is a key indicator of a hate crime.

During his closing statement, State Attorney Castillo said the brutality of Ryan's murder indicated, "hatred, contempt and utter disregard for another human being because he was gay."

Hate crimes are directed at groups of people. They are intended to make an entire community afraid simply because of who they are.

But hate crimes are only effective as a two-step dance: first the offender sends fear into people's hearts with a heinous act of violence. Then leaders around them act like nothing more happened than a car theft gone wrong. No action. No public acknowledgment of what has happened. No commitment to ensuring this never happens again. Their silence is as terrifying as the violence itself.

Take action. Tell Gov Crist and Attorney General McCollum that they must refuse to be the second-step in the cycle of anti-gay hate violence. Tell them to speak out, to turn the tide and declare that gay and transgender people are valued members of our society and that hate violence will not be tolerated against any group.

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