Georgia Candlelight Vigil for Murdered Gay Man

March 19, 2003

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) today announced its co-sponsorship of the Cobb Candlelight Vigil being held in memory of a gay Georgia man whose murderer confessed to the crime but walked free due to the trial allegedly focusing more on the victim's sexual orientation than on the crime itself.

"It is vital that we not lose sight of the humanity of crime victims, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity," said National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Deputy Executive Director Darrel Cummings. "However, in this particular case, the victim's sexual orientation was held in contempt by both the murderer and the prosecutor resulting not only in the loss of life, but in justice not being served. For a "gay panic" defense to still be a viable excuse for murder in the state of Georgia, or anywhere for that matter, is reprehensible and shows the harm that embedded homophobia perpetuates."

Please read the following is a press release from the organizers of the Cobb Candlelight vigil for more information about the crime, the trial and the vigil.

Candlelight Vigil To Protest Cobb County's Failed Prosecution in Trial of Slain Fulton County Asst. D.A.

Atlanta, GA - A one hour Candlelight Vigil will be held on Saturday, March 22, at 7:00 p.m., on The Square in downtown Marietta to honor the memory of murder victim, Ahmed Dabarran, a Fulton County assistant district attorney, and to protest Cobb County's failed murder prosecution. On February 28, 2003, a Cobb County jury acquitted Roderiqus Reshad Reed of the May 2001 brutal murder and robbery of Dabarran despite Reed's own admission at trial that he repeatedly struck Dabarran on the head with a pot in Dabarran's home, and then left with the victim's car and cell phone. Candlelight Vigil organizers are constructing a website,, to publicize the event and provide information about the murder trial.

Reed's attorney's used the "gay panic" defense alleging that Reed killed Dabarran to protect himself from Dabarran's sexual advances. However, a medical examiner testified that Dabarran was struck over a dozen times on the head while he slept. A juror explained that the jurors reached their decision because they felt the state had not "dotted their I's and crossed their T's," according to a news report in the Marietta Daily Journal.

In a March 5th press release Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, Dabarran's boss, stated, "Needless to say, my Office was horrified by this verdict. Because Ahmed was such a kind and wonderful person, it is extremely difficult to accept that the man who brutally murdered him has walked free." The acquittal led Howard to announce that his office is planning a national symposium for prosecutors on how to effectively combat the use of the "gay panic" defense. "Gay crime victims must receive equal treatment as crime victims," Howard said. "It is our hope that this symposium will honor Ahmed as the man that we knew him to be and reinforce this important principle of social justice."

Controversy is not new to Cobb County over its treatment of gays. In 1993 the Cobb County Commission passed a resolution stating that the "gay lifestyle" was incompatible with community standards. The following year Cobb County lost the rights to host the 1996 Olympic volleyball games after the successful protests of Olympics Out of Cobb, a group which was angry about the anti-gay resolution. The Olympics controversy drew unwanted national and international attention to Cobb County.

The Candlelight Vigil is being organized by an ad hoc committee of Atlanta and Cobb citizens outraged over the acquittal of Reed according to committee spokesperson Steve Koval. The committee members are Don George, the immediate past president of the ACLU of Georgia; Steve Koval, an attorney and immediate past president of the Atlanta Executive Network; Michael Manely, a Cobb County attorney; Chris Parsons, a community activist; Cherry Spencer-Stark, past co-chair of Cobb Citizens Coalition; Allen Thornell, Executive Director of Georgia Equality; and Craig Washington, Executive Director of the Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Center.

For details, background, news stories, or directions go to the Cobb Candlelight Vigil Web site.
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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.