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Hate Crime Incident: Killing of Charlie Howard

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 6006 words Published: 18th May 2020

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This essay shall discuss the prejudiced-motivated killing of Charlie Howard, a young, gay man in 1984. The Charlie Howard case was one of the most notorious murder cases in the United States. The killing was an unprovoked example of injustice. This case has exposed the frequency of this type of hate crime. The essay will analyse …

Howard had a tough upbringing, in the rural town of Bangor, Heide. He was bullied in high school for his sexual orientation. An example of this was at a nightclub, a weekend hobby like any other, when security requested, he leaves. This is because Howard was dancing with a male friend and which didn’t conform to social expectations. Another incident was when Howard was in a local grocery store, and an unfamiliar lady screamed “you pervert”, which urged Howard to leave. As he left, he blew her a kiss. He had been subject to abuse for being openly gay throughout his life. Another day he arrived home to find his cat, strangled to death on his own front door step. This hateful behaviour progressed to July 7th, 1984, where upon walking home alongside Ron, a friend, a car came to a halt behind them. Three intoxicated boys jumped out the car and chased Howard and Ron to State Street Bridge, Bangor. Howard suffered from severe asthma and fell to the ground, while Ron ran away. Howard was beaten from the three boys, as one yelled, ‘Throw him off the bridge!’. Despite Howards inability to swim, the boys didn’t believe him and pursued to pitch him off the bridge. Ron set off a fire alarm, however, unfortunately Howard was found deceased three hours later. Howard was victimized by societal expectations.

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There remains a social stigma with the LGBTQ population, leading many to repress their sexual orientation, out of concern of the ‘perceived negative outcomes associated with it’ (Gates, 2013). For example, the extreme murder of Charlie Howard. The threat of victimisation is concerning, as LGBTQ people are “at greater risk for victimization over the life span” (Balsam, Rothblum and Beauchaine, 2005:447). Although this statement is over a decade old, victimisation of LGBTQ people persists. “Childhood physical and verbal abuse by parents or caretakers” have been found amongst LGBTQ members rather than heterosexual members (Corliss, Cochran and Mays, 2002:1165). This statement demonstrates the vulnerability of gay or lesbian children amongst those who have a duty of care, which is astonishing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. Victimisation threatens mental health problems including “PTSD, depression, anxiety … anger problems”, “eating disorders” (Simon et al, 2002:42-50) and “abusing drugs and alcohol” (Perry, 1996:413). This is alarming as these symptoms are linked with self-confidence, resulting in experiencing worthlessness and vulnerability. Victimisation may have a knock-on effect to future relationships, encountering complications with others. According to Arata (2002:135) these individuals may “be at greater risk of future victimization”, which demonstrates a reoccurring cycle which influences the future risk of being victimised. Studies by Follette et al (1996:25) show that these psychological symptoms are ‘associated with repeated or multiple simultaneous victimization experiences, rather than single incidents’.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Alike what Howard experienced, attacks are common. The federal report on bias crime, by the U.S. Department of Justice, published in 1987 (cited in Klinger and Stein, 1994:801), just three years after Howards killing, announced “lesbians and gay men may be the most often victimized group in the United States”. This is astonishing as sexual orientation is not a choice but involves genetics, hormones and other environmental influences. What do offenders’ benefit from victimising those based on perceived sexual orientation? Elaborating in the types of victimisation commonly exerted towards gay, lesbian and bisexual hate crimes are ‘physical assault, sexual assault, sexual harassment and stalking’ (Dunbar, 1998) compared to other hate offences. In addition to this, Herek (2000:20) reports that homophobic hate crime is the most underreported compared to alternative hate incidents, therefore elucidating the impression that the statistics are far higher than those which are reported. One theory as to why men are subjective to assault according to Paul, Hays and Coates (1995) is due to the correlation of HIV and AIDS with males which encouraged ‘bias-motivated victimisation rates’, which are presumptions over facts.

Howards murder inspired Mark Doty to write a poem; ‘Charlie Howard’s Decent’. The poem recognises the “insults and degradation” Howard lived through “at the hands of his tormentors, ultimately leading to his death”. (Connolly and Smith, 2003:236) Many strong themes are addressed throughout the piece including the troubled life, isolation and judgement associated with being openly homosexual in that era. Further suggesting this kind of hate behaviour was accepted in social norms. The poem reads “because he could not meet a little town’s demands” (Doty, 1987) This implies that the death of Charlie Howard was caused by the entire town, not just the three guilty teenaged boys. It was an all-together influence. Howards grave stone cites ‘May we, the citizens of Bangor, continue to change the world around us until hatred becomes peace making and ignorance becomes understanding.’ This powerful message helped shape the people of Bangor, and the world around the acceptance and understanding of homosexuality. Homophobic behaviour persists as in 2011, a group vandalised Howards grave, spray painting graffiti and anti-gay slur, although this was soon cleaned up from family and friends.

A recently released film, ‘IT’, chapter 2 is based on Charlie Howard, “an out gay man murdered in Kings hometown of Bangor”. The film addresses a character who “was targeted, in part, because he was wearing a flamboyant hat.” King mentioned through representing an actual murder into the film, the horror “results from the licence some think they have to perpetuate violence”. This is raising awareness as King was writing the script at the same time of Howards killing. Slate’s Jeffrey Bloomer raised controversy regarding the film, scrutinizing it as “exploitative of Howard’s murder” (Allbright, 2019). However, the audience should experience shock from the attack, to emotionally involve the audience into understanding the wrongdoings of the attackers.  

The brutal murder recently inspired the 20th Anniversary Memorial Walk in Bangor on July 7th, 2004. As well as the Charles O. Howard Memorial Foundation. This raised the funds for the memorial in Howards honour at the place of death, raises funds to ‘educate on diversity and sensitivity issues’ to prevent future hate crime incidents. Finally, to ‘provide scholarship money for students entering fields related to diversity’ (Allen, 2003). Another reaction to Howard’s death was the formation of the Maine Lesbian/Gay Political Alliance which became the EqualityMaine. Aims on the political advocacy organisation were to ensure equality for LTBT people in Maine from political action, education, community organising and collaboration. The alliance raises awareness to gay and lesbian issues and promote civil rights leading to reviewing the legislation and network with national human right organisations, advocating full LGBTQ equality. A recent milestone  for Maine was 2012, where the “city opened the doors of city hall … to allow same-sex couples to marry”.

The three offenders, Daniel Ness, 17, Shawn Mabry, 16 and James Baines, 15 were all charged with murder. Although they were “tried as juveniles and not as adults” and “not to exceed their 21st birthdays”. “Baines was released after serving two years and Mabry was released after 22 months”. (Harrison, 2009) This is a shockingly short sentence for the hate filled killing of Howard. Although the offenders were young, have they served justice? Serving such a short sentence surely does not rehabilitate the men. One of the offenders “became proactive in fighting antigay bigotry in the state of Maine” (Garnets and Douglas, 2003:435), which demonstrates that some good came from the tragedy.

In 2012, the city opened the doors of city hall at 6 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 29, to allow same-sex couples to marry on the day it became legal in Maine. Several local notaries, including Baldacci, volunteered their services

McCrea, N. (2014) Bangor City Council to be recognized for gay-rights efforts. Bangor Daily News. [online] September 8, 2014 Available at: https://bangordailynews.com/2014/09/08/news/bangor/bangor-city-council-to-be-recognized-for-gay-rights-efforts/ [Accessed: 24th October 2019]

Perhaps unlike other criminals, hate-motivated criminals believe that their acts of assault actually serve the community’s morality, or even some higher morality. 12 Whether the motivation is hatred of gays or blacks or Jews, a common bond among hate-motivated criminals is a sense of doing battle for good over evil. Put another way, these criminals are vigilantes in pursuit of justice as they see it.’3 From their perspective, the crucial point is their belief that they are doing justice. From a conservative’s perspective, the crucial point should be that they are vigilantes.

12 – , “[u]nlike other residents who had committed their crimes as a means of

rebelling against society, the slayers of Charlie Howard [a gay man) committed theirs

as a way of being accepted by it.”

Chang, D (1994) Beyond uncompromising positions: hate crimes legislation and the common ground between conservative republicans and gay rights advocates. Fordham Urban Law Journal. [online] v.21 (4) pp.1100 Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsjaf&AN=edsjaf.10.2307.40009180&si

te=eds-live  [Accessed 24th October 2019]

National Level Trends

According to Census 2010, the total number of same-sex couple households was 901,997, representing less than 1 percent (0.773 percent) of all households in the United States (Text Table A). Data from Census 2000 tabulated 594,391 households or 0.564 percent of all households. Overall, census data show an increase of 52 percent in the number (307,606) of same-sex households over the past ten years. [1]


O’Connell, M. and Feliz, S. (2011) Same-sex couple household statistics from the 2010 census. Washington, DC: U.S. Bureau of the Census.


file:///C:/Users/Arian%20Haf/Downloads/Lesbian_Gay_Bisexual_and_Transgender_Aging_Researc…_—-_(7._The_Victimization_of_Older_LGBT_Adults_Patterns_Impact_and_Implicat…).pdf :112

Also = in addition to this

This suggests = therefore elucidating the impression that


  • Allbright, C (2019) It Chapter Two: why its depiction of homophobic violence is actually a positive. The Guardian. [online] 13th September 2019 Available at:  Https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/sep/13/it-chapter-two-why-its-depiction-of-homophobic-violence-is-actually-a-positive [Accessed: 24th October 2019]
  • Allen, M (2003) MLGPA News. University of Southern Maine, USM Digital Commons. [online]:9 20th March 2004 Available at: http://digitalcommons.usm.maine.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1049&context=mlgpa_news [Accessed: 24th October 2019]
  • Arata, C. M. (2002) Child sexual abuse and sexual revictimization. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, (9):135-164
  • Balsam, K. F., Rothblum, E. D., and Beauchaine, T. P. (2005) Victimisation over the lifespan: A comparison of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and heterosexual siblings. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, (73):447-487
  • Connolly, B. and Smith, M.W., (2003) Dropping in a mouse: Reading poetry with our students. The Clearing House, 76(5):235-239.
  • Corliss, H. L., Cochran, S. D., and Mays, V. M. (2002) Reports of parental maltreatment during childhood in a United States population-based survey of homosexual, bisexual, and heterosexual adults. Child abuse & Neglect, (26):1165-1178
  • Doty, M (1987) “Charlie Howard’s Descent”. Turtle, Swan
  • Dunbar, E. D. (1998) Hate crime reportage: A comparison of demographic and behavioural characteristics. Paper presented at the meetings of the American Psychological Association, San Francisco
  • Follette, V. M., Polusny, M. A., Bechtle, A. E., and Naugle, A. E. (1996) Cumulative trauma: The impact of child sexual abuse, adult sexual assault, and spouse abuse. Journal of Traumatic Stress, (9):25-35
  • Garnets, L. Douglas K. (2003) Psychological Perspectives on Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Experiences. Columbia University Press (2):435
  • Gates, G. (2013) Geography of the LGBT Population International Handbook on the Demography of Sexuality. International Handbooks of Population, (5)
  • Harrison, J. (2009) Where are Charlie Howard’s killers? Bangor Daily News [online] 12th July 2009 Available at:  https://bangordailynews.com/2009/07/12/news/bangor/where-are-charlie-howardrsquos-killers/ [Accessed 24th October 2019]
  • Herek, G. M. (2000) The psychology of sexual prejudice. Current Directions in Psychological science (9):19-22
  • Kimmel, C. David, S. and Rose, T. (2006). Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Aging: Research and Clinical Perspectives. Columbia University Press:110-120
  • Klinger, R. L., and Stein, T. S. (1994) Impact on violence, childhood sexual abuse, and domestic violence and abuse on lesbians, bisexuals, and gay men. Textbook of homosexuality and mental health. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press:801-817
  • Paul, J. Hays, R. B. and Coates, T. J. (1995) The impact of the HIV epidemic on US gay male communities. Lesbian, gay and bisexual identities over the lifespan: Psychological perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press:347-397
  • Perry, S. M. (1996) Lesbian alcohol and marijuana use: Correlates of HIV risk behaviours and abusive relationships. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs (27):413-419
  • Simon, T. R., Anderson, M., Thompson, M. P., Crosby, A., and Sacks, J. J. (2002) Assault victimization and suicidal ideation or behaviour within a national sample of U.S. adults. Suicide & Life- Threatening Behaviour, (32):42-50


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