The sentence given to Jesse Imeson for the murder of a gay man has sparked anger in Windsor’s gay community.
On Oct 27 Imeson pled guilty to second-degree murder in the 2007 killing of gay Windsor bartender and architecture student Carlos Rivera and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for 15 years. At the same time he also pled guilty to second-degree murder in the cases of Bill and Helene Regier, an elderly couple who lived near London. Imeson was sentenced to 25 years without the possibility of parole in each of those cases.
As part of the sentencing the crown attorney read out an agreed statement of facts. According to the London Free Press the statement said Imeson met Rivera when he auditioned to be a dancer at The Tap, where Rivera worked. The two went out drinking and Imeson took Rivera to his room in a Windsor boarding house.
According to the statement of facts Imeson woke up to find Rivera performing oral sex on him. Imeson then used his belt to strangle Rivera.
Matthew Macdonald — the incoming president of Outlaws, the queer group at the University of Windsor law school — says the city’s queer community is upset.
“People are very concerned about the disparity,” he says. “A lot of people took it, rightly or wrongly, that a gay life is worth less.”
Macdonald says the statement of facts makes the Rivera murder sound like a case of gay panic.
“I think the fact they gave credence to this idea that he woke up and Carlos was performing oral sex lends weight to provocation,” he says. “The theme around provocation may have played a factor in the disparity of the sentences.”
Macdonald says the defence may very well have used provocation as a defence if the case had gone to trial.
Douglas Janoff, the author of Pink Blood: Homophobic Violence in Canada, says the crown was probably trying to avoid a trial. He says the sentence of life without possibility of parole for 15 years shows the crown didn’t buy the gay panic defence.
“My sense is that their hands are tied because there are no witnesses who could dispute this claim,” he writes in an email. “In other words to not agree to these facts would open the door to the possibility of a trial which would could then open the door, to the jury, of the possibility of manslaughter. So, considering that in my book similar killers have only had to go to prison for a couple of years before being eligible for parole, I would say that the outcome sends quite a strong message from the Crown.”
Macdonald admits the longer sentence for the Regier murders may have stemmed from the fact that Imeson broke into their home and tied them up before shooting them. But he says he would have preferred to see the Rivera case go to trial and demolish a gay panic defence.
“I think it would have been better to let it go through and show that this defence cannot be used,” he says.
Macdonald also says the Crown should have pushed to have the Rivera case considered a hate crime, which would have allowed the judge to consider homophobia as a factor in sentencing.
“[Imeson] snickered in the courtroom when it was read out in the courtroom that he had received oral sex,” he says. “He told an undercover officer that if he had it to do over again, he would kill the gay guy. What more do you need for aggravating factors?
“The Crown and the judge should be aware of the message that was sent to the gay community, intentionally or not.”
Macdonald says the Windsor community is happy to see the case wrapped up and Imeson in prison.
“There’s obvious relief that Imeson is off the streets,” he says. “It’s pretty scary. It’s not exactly a huge gay community in Windsor.”
Macdonald says the murder of Rivera may have led to the closing of another of Windsor’s three gay bars.
“I would think the attendance may have gone down because of fear in the community,” he says.
The Crown attorney in charge of the case did not return Xtra’s phone calls.