Two Arrested in Horrific Texas Attack on Gay Man; Hate Crime Designation Unlikely

On Monday I posted about the brutal attack on Burke Burnett in Reno, Texas. Burnett said he was attacked by four men at a private party early Sunday morning. The men stabbed him with a broken beer bottle before throwing him onto a fire. His attackers hurled ugly anti-gay slurs as they beat him.

BurnettTwo men have been arrested, the Dallas Voice reports:

Reno Police Chief Jeff W. Sugg announced in a two-sentence statement this morning that Daniel Martin and James “Tray” Mitchell Lasiter have been arrested in the beating of 26-year-old Burke Burnett…Reno police spokeswoman Alicia Myrick told Dallas Voice that Martin and Lasiter are charged with aggravated assault with a a deadly weapon, causing serious bodily injury — a first-degree felony punishable by five to 99 years in prison. According to Sugg’s statement, the investigation is ongoing. Myrick said it will be up the Lamar County District Attorney’s Office to determine whether the case is prosecuted as a hate crime."

The case is unlikely to be prosecuted as a hate crime, according to the Voice, because "there is no penalty enhancement for a hate crime if the offense is a first-degree felony…" It will be up to the Lamar County District Attorney’s Office to decide whether to prosecute it that way.

Gay Man Stabbed, Beaten, Burned in Rural Texas [tr]


  1. mark says

    I think it shouldn’t matter if there’s an enhancement or not; they should prosecute it as such so that statistics reflect (and the public hear more about) what happened.

  2. zydrate says

    Maybe adding a hate crime charge seems good for your principles but if there’s no enhancement, the only purpose it will serve here is to make it that much more difficult to get a conviction, or allow a rural Texas jury the chance to reduce a sentence based on the victim’s sexual orientation.

    I would venture to guess that it’s better off just being prosecuted with no mention of the victim’s sexuality.

  3. luminum says

    I agree with Mark. Hate Crime laws exist primarily because society deems certain arbitrary motivations as more offensive or repugnant than others (e.g first degree murder vs. voluntary manslaughter).

    Even if it doesn’t enhance the sentence, it falls under this category and should be labeled for what it was.

  4. rafi says

    If I’m not mistaken, a deadly weapon finding in an assault prosecution in Texas will mean that the convicted must serve half the assigned sentence before parole can even be considered.

  5. zydrate says

    Hate crime laws act as sentence enhancements when crimes are committed with a specific motivation, it is in no way, shape or form the same as differentiating between first degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.

    If there is an easier, more likely route to conviction which would not result in a reduces sentence, that route should be taken in favor of achieving justice.

  6. says

    I too agree with Mark. It is a Hate Crime and should be prosecuted as such. Hate Crimes have to be reported. Even without it being so designated these two criminals will most likely get a suspended 5-year sentence. This is Texas, after all.

  7. ESA says

    As a former victim of domestic felony assault with intent, in the state of Texas, I can tell you first hand, the most important thing of all to any victim is knowing that you’re safe and that the perpetrator isn’t roaming the streets. You spend a good deal of time looking over your shoulder and it takes a lot of work to feel “normal” again.

    That being said, the first thing on anyone’s mind should be how to ensure that the person/people responsible for the violent act is/are held accountable, by any legal means necessary. Burke may still have to face his attackers in court, the families of his attackers and any number of obstacles, so any potential for release of the prisoners must be avoided. When one becomes idealistic about terminology and risks any number of outcomes other than maximum sentencing for violent acts, the life of the victim is at risk.

    That the Police Chief and Lamar County DA’s office managed an arrest so quickly is a blessing. Now keep your hopes and prayers and any sort of positive thoughts on the issue at hand, which is seeing that Burke will recover psychologically and physically and that the men that attacked him will spend a VERY long time behind bars—long enough to truly understand just how wrong their actions were, and then add a few lifetimes.

    Even though its a long read, there is a PDF from the Texas State Senate at: “” that may be helpful if you’re wondering exactly what the process was in coming to a decision on signing the law, who actually signed it (surprise! No, not really), and what the actual terminology of the law is and the results.

    Keep Burke in your prayers, thoughts, and actions. He’s going to need all the help he can get.

  8. says

    Although I don’t agree with the lack of hate crime designation I am relieved that the police investigated and made arrests. It will be interesting to watch this case and see how much, if any time they get. I just want them to go to prison for what they did at this point.

  9. Doug Wagner says

    Unfortunately, there is no hate crime legislation in Texas designed to protect LGBT folk. Any attempt to pass such a law or protection has failed -every- time, because, to paraphrase what my Texas State and national senators told me when I was involved in a letter-writing campaign to enact one: ‘a crime should not be judged by the orientation of the victim, but by its brutality. People should not receive special protections based on race, creed, religion, or orientation.’

    If it comes up in the trial that the victim is gay, it will likely not serve him well in the long run, especially in a small town jury situation.

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