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Social Commentary from the C-Suite to Main Street℠

A Blog by Gary Wright II

Story of Army PFC Barry Winchell murder

Friday, August 28th, 2009

The story of Barry Winchell needs to still be told and it should raise several serious questions regarding the policies of the US military. I'll start by telling the story and I'll finish with some questions up for discussion:

In 1999 at US Army Fort Campbell in Kentucky, PFC Barry Winchell was beaten to death with a wooden baseball bat while he was sleeping.

Barry had joined the US Army in order to have the money to attend a technical school. PFC Winchell excelled as a soldier, he loved the army, and wanted to make it a career.

The Fight:
Several soldiers were out drinking and celebrating the 4th of July weekend. As they went from bar to bar, they ended up visiting a gay bar. Barry started a conversation with a performer in the bar, and they started dating. I'm not sure if Barry knew Calpernia was transgendered, because he was straight and was attracted to women (this is even according to Calpernia).

Rumors that Barry was gay were started by Barry's room mate Specialist Justin Fisher. These rumors were not true, but Barry was constantly harassed for over four months.

As the soldiers were out drinking, 18 year old Private Calvin Glover consumed 17 beers and started running his mouth and being obnoxious. Barry Winchell tried to get him to calm down, but it turned into a fight. Barry had just finished kicking his ass when an army officer walked by. Winchell said they were just wrestling and joking around.

The Murder:
Fisher immediately started goading Glover into fighting by tormenting him with, "You got your ass beat by a faggot!"

Once Glover gets really fired up, Fisher hands him a wooden baseball bat. Fisher leaves the room and bashes Winchell in the head five times with the bat.

The Punishment:
Fisher was charged as an accessory to murder, but he got a plea deal. Instead of life in prison, he was sentenced to only 12 1/2 years in prison in exchange for his testimony against Glover. He was released in October 2006 after serving only seven years of his sentence.

Courts Martial decided that Glover was guilty of premeditated murder and sentenced him to life in prison with the possibility of parole this year (2009).

Discussion:
1. Glover entered the army as an alternative to going to prison. What effect does it have on our military when they lower the moral requirements in order to meet recruitment goals?

2. Without the actions of Fisher, this incident wouldn't have happened. Fisher was the one who provided the weapon, deliberately instigated the attack, provided the motivation, provided the opportunity, and egged Glover to fight. Should Fisher have been charged with murder along with Glover? Were seven years in prison enough punishment?

3. For premeditation, the criteria is to form an intent to kill. Five strikes with bat to the head was intent to kill. Should this crime be viewed as a hate crime?

SLDN says it is a hate crime because the taunt wasn't just "You got beat up!" it was, "You got your ass kicked by a faggot!" and that was the basis for the aggression.

Personally, I have mixed feelings about "hate crimes" - I think the crime is the murder, and it should carry the same punishment regardless of the circumstances. However, I do support the resources that are made available when a hate crime is reported. I say this because of the Matthew Shepard murder, where in a small town they simply don't have the means to conduct a serious investigation.

4. When a member of the military gets into trouble, they are appointed legal counsel. In my personal case where the military is at fault, it is a clear conflict of interest for the defendant to only be allowed counsel from the military. Should the defendant be provided the resources to hire an independent civilian attorney for their defense?

5. If the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy wasn't in place, many of these crimes would have never taken place. A soldier won't get away with making racial taunts because they will get severely punished. Under the DADT policy of legal discrimination, there is no punishment for harassing gays. The victim can't report the crime to the command without being pursued under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Do you think DADT should be repealed?

Former President Clinton said: "I can only hope that this last brutal beating death of a gay soldier will give some sobering impetus to a reexamination about how this policy is implemented. It is out of whack now and I don't think any serious person can say it's not."

I have two problems with that statement. First, the murderers have already been in and now out of prison, yet the DADT policy still exists today. That means that Barry was NOT the "last brutal beating death of a gay soldier." Second, Barry was not even a "gay soldier" he was beaten to death based upon his PERCEIVED sexual orientation.

A big Thank You goes to SLDN.org for all of their work on this case! For the full story, watch A Soldiers Secret - Notorious series on Biography channel.

I would love to hear your opinions on this issue - so please leave your comments.

-- Gary Wright II


Comments:

Luke said:
1. It makes for an undisciplined and military that does not represent this country in the way that it should be an reflect the strong moral values on which this country is based upon! Those are the type of people who commit the immoral atrocities such as all those you here of our soldiers committing all the time these days. In turn it will only bring more hatred towards the U.S. as a whole, which is something this country cannot afford!

2. Although Fisher was the instigator, Glover is an adult an should not have let someone outside of the box influence him to do something so terrible so easily! Let's be honest, how many people would actually go an jump off of a cliffjus because someone told them that they should!? Even though I feel that he should not get the same charge as Glover, seven years is no where near long enough!!!

3. I feel that it should be viewed as a hate crime if that is what it takes for TRUE JUSTICE to be served!

4. In the event that the branch of military where in a case involving them as the defendant, clearly that would give them an unfair advantage! Therefore I would say yes, in that situation, the member should be provided the resources for a civilian attorney.

5. Yes the DADT should be repealed. Civilians can be prosecuted in extreme cases of discrimination, why should it be any different for them! The military is supposed to be comprised of the finest our great nation has to offer, therefore they should be all the more susceptible to be punished for such atrocities.

Thank you for your comments Luke!

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