Minersville, PA, USA:
Marcus Wayman and another friend were in an abandoned parking lot where they
were turning around their vehicle, coming from a high school party. The teens
were immediately followed into the lot by local police. Officers at once stopped
and separated the teens.
After frisking the teens, police
found that one of them were carrying condoms. Officer Scott Willinsky within
minutes concluded the boys were obviously "queers" (police quote) and stopping
to engage in sex. After questioning the teens about the condoms, Willinksy had
his mind made up, regardless of their answers.
The small town police threatened
to tell the teens' families, friends and community that they were homosexuals
and quoted biblical passages while placing them under arrest for underage
Marcus, a high school football
player, distraught and despaired, scared that he would be labeled and outed as
gay by the police to the small community, his family and friends … six hours
later … committed suicide.
He was 18 years old.
In a time of rampant HIV, STD
infections and teenage pregnancy, we teach and preach to our youth to practice
safe sex. Yet in Minersville, carrying condoms is translated from responsible
teenage behavior to being "queer faggots" (police quote).
In 1998, Madonna Sterling,
Marcus' mother, filed civil charges against Minersville police officers and the
town; specifically, Police Chief Joseph Willinsky and son Scott Willinsky (who
is still an officer in Minersville), claiming that the officers clearly violated
Marcus' privacy rights.
Due to the vague nature of sexual
orientation being covered under privacy laws, the attorney for the police argued
that sexual orientation was not considered private and therefore, not protected
under the Constitutional Amendments. As a result, the defense moved for a
dismissal from all charges against the very same police who are sworn to protect
and serve all citizens.
During pretrial arguments in
November 2000, the 3rd U S Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled that a
person's constitutional right to privacy not only includes one's sexual
orientation but stated "it is difficult to imagine a more private matter than
ones sexuality and a less likely probability that the government would have a
legitimate interest in its disclosure. Further, by threatening to disclose ones
homosexuality would be tantamount to doing so, because the security of ones
privacy has been compromised by the threat."
The defense for the police
further justified the actions of the police by saying that in small towns like
Minersville, the police are obligated to take on parental roles as well act as
spiritual advisors to members of their community ."Chief Willinsky offers that,
as a small town police officer, his role has parental overtones, thus, reducing
the citizens' expectation of privacy. We mention this only to note our
disagreement with the concept that the breadth of ones constitutional rights can
somehow be diminished by demographics," US Circuit Judge Carlos Los Mansmann
wrote in the ground-breaking, landmark opinion.
This high court ruling allowed
the case to move forward and the civil trial was held in Allentown, Pennsylvania
on November two-thousand and one. After three days of testimony, a jury
acquitted the police from any wrongdoing.
And no one
is held accountable???
On June 17th, 2002, the honorable
and respectable, Judge Arnold C. Rapoport granted a new trial for this case,
tossing out the previous acquittal. Judge Rapoport saying that the evidence
presented at trial was clearly not heard or understood by the jury, calling the
verdict a miscarriage of justice.
The defense immediately appealed
for a reconsideration of Rapaport's decision to overturn the verdict and further
plead to allow the Appellate Court hear whether it was within Judge Rapaport's
authority to toss the verdict.
In a terse statement issued on
October 18, 2002, Judge Rapaport issued a decision that boldly and flatly denied
the defense's plea on both counts … clearing the way for the police to face new
charges of misconduct, again, in front of a new jury for the invasion of privacy
that prompted Marcus' suicide.
Let us not forget that Marcus'
death and this case has afforded all gay, lesbian and bisexual people the right
to privacy under the 14th Amendent to our Constitution. Never before has this
been argued in a High Court. However, as such a political and controversial
issue, this story has yet to be truly exposed. Under our Constitutional right to
privacy, this case hangs in balance of what the government deems private and
not. A truly unprecedented case that has wide spread implications on all
Furthermore, how many
more youth must perish, thinking that suicide is preferable that being labeled
Please also note that it is
not our intention, in any way, to claim that all police are bad officers. Those
who have a sworn oath and duty to protect and serve, we truly thank and honor.
However, in this case, we are speaking of cops who obviously forgot about that
very same sworn oath.