Crazy! On August 7th, I interviewed Tom Varik on the complications in the law on gay marriage and spousal privilege… And now it’s in the news! In a capital murder case! How’s that for timely!
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) – A legal debate over whether one member of a same-sex couple has spousal privilege that would shield her from testifying against her partner is at the heart of a capital murder case in politically conservative Kentucky.
Geneva Case, 49, does not want to testify in a Louisville court against her partner, Bobbie Jo Clary, 37, who is accused of beating George Murphy, 64, to death with a hammer in 2011 and then stealing his van. Prosecutors say Case must testify because of her value as a witness, since she heard Clary admit to the slaying and also saw blood on the interior of the victim’s van after the killing.
Clary says Murphy used a hammer to sexually assault her, and she defended herself by hitting him over the head. Clary is also charged with tampering with evidence to cover up the crime. If convicted, Clary could face the death penalty.
Under Kentucky law, a person cannot be called to testify against his or her spouse. Most states have a similar type of law. But Kentucky is not among the 13 states that have legalized gay marriage. In 2004, it amended the state constitution to define marriage as being a union between a man and a woman.
Susan Sommer, an attorney for Lambda Legal, a national legal organization for the protection of gay rights, said she was not familiar with the details of the Kentucky case, but Lambda believes gay couples should have the same legal protections as other married people.
“Spousal privilege is one part of the tremendous bundle of protections for a committed couple that come automatically with marriage,” Sommer said.
Case and Clary were joined in a civil union in 2004 in Vermont. Vermont first allowed civil unions in 2000, but did not legalize same-sex marriage until 2009.
“Kentucky’s marital privilege law does not give Ms. Case the right not to testify in a murder trial,” said Stacy Greive, assistant commonwealth attorney for Jefferson County. “And the reason marital privilege does not apply to Ms. Case in her relationship with the defendant is because it is our opinion and our belief that they do not have a marriage that is recognized under Kentucky law.”
Greive argues that not only is the union not recognized in Kentucky, but the couple has not presented proof they have a valid marriage under Vermont law. “They have a civil union, if you look at Vermont’s statutes, they distinguish between civil unions and marriage,” she said.
- Duration: 1:03:30
- Download: Standard MP3 File (21.8 MB)
For more details, check out the episode’s archive page.