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Anti-gay crimes rarely prosecuted in Texas by name

Photo: Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Michael Barajas

Preston Vest, Troy Clattenburg's nephew, said Clattenburg (inset) was lke a brother. Shortly after the murder, Vest got a tattoo in remembrance of Clattenburg.

Photo: , License: N/A

Troy Clattenburg

When first investigated, San Antonio police insisted, to the ire of local advocates and Clattenburg's family, that Clattenburg's murder "lacked elements to prove a hate crime occurred." Nearly two months after his death, police had a change of heart amid the mounting pressure, conceding to the media that the murder was indeed bias-motivated.

Carmichael will be eligible for parole after serving 20 years of his sentence for murder.

Though technically his uncle, Clattenburg was nine months younger than Preston Vest. The two got along like brothers, Vest said, playing video games, sharing movies and music, sneaking cigarettes when the parents weren't looking. "It's hard to give you a good sense of who Troy was," Vest said. "He was so special and unique to me. We had times together that were just magic."

Growing up, they attended elementary school together, and Vest recalled Clattenburg enduring a steady stream of bullying. When classes let out, Clattenburg would point out the bullies and Vest would run over and give them hell. "I had to fight for him," he said.
When they were 13, Vest was the first person Clattenburg told he was gay — for a long time, Vest was the only family member who knew it. "He didn't cry, he wasn't hesitant, but he was a little worried, waiting to see what I thought," Vest said. "I just gave him a hug, told him it was alright."

Vest now sports a tattoo stretching across his forearm in remembrance of Clattenburg. "Troy was not an aggressor by any means," he said.

But Carmichael, in statements to police and in an unsuccessful appeal last year, insisted Clattenburg provoked the slaying, employing what Clattenburg's family and advocates call a classic "gay panic" defense strategy.

Carmichael, according to investigators' reports, told authorities Clattenburg came on too strong for a brief moment the two were alone inside his apartment. In a post-conviction appeal — which was quickly thrown out since Carmichael took a plea deal for his 40-year sentence — Carmichael pushed the gay-panic line even further, drafting a two-page hand-scrawled note to the court begging for a reduced sentence. In it, he gives a broken, lurid account claiming Clattenburg raped him just before the shooting.

"The so-called gay panic defense has been used successfully to reduce the sentence of a murderer significantly, and in many cases, obtain a full acquittal," said Jay Morris with GetEqual Texas, saying the strategy "re-victimizes those harmed by the crime."

Hicks says she's appalled by the claim. "Troy didn't have an aggressive bone in his body." She and others called Clattenburg almost childlike — a sensitive 24-year-old who easily got his feelings hurt, still lived with and depended on his mother, who didn't have a car or job. He strived for attention and acceptance from his father, local civil rights leader Jaime P. Martinez, who family said was barely involved in Clattenburg's life.

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