November 19th, 1988
Texas Judge Rules Murders of Gay Men Do Not Warrant Harsh Sentences
On November 19, 1988, in Dallas, Texas, Judge Jack Hampton sentenced Richard Lee Bednarski to thirty years imprisonment for murdering two gay men.
On the night of the crime, Bednarski and several friends drove to a local gay neighborhood to “gay-bash” or harass gays. Tommy Lee Trimble and John Lloyd Griffin, two gay men, approached the group and offered Bednarski a ride, which he accepted. In the car, Bednarski ordered Trimble and Griffin to disrobe. When they refused, Bednarski shoved a pistol into Trimble’s mouth and fired. As Griffin tried to escape, Bednarski shot him. Trimble died immediately and Griffin died five days later.
After the sentencing hearing, in which Judge Hampton rejected the prosecution’s recommendation that Bednarski be sentenced to life imprisonment, a reporter published an interview in which Judge Hampton said he was lenient because, “I put prostitutes and gays at about the same level . . . I’d be hard put to give somebody life for killing a prostitute.” Judge Hampton went on to blame Trimble and Griffin for their own deaths, reasoning that they would not have died “if they hadn’t been cruising the streets picking up teenage boys.” Judge Hampton continued, “I don’t care much for queers running around on weekend picking up teenage boys. I’ve got a teenage boy.”
Following publication of the interview, the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct investigated and concluded that Judge Hampton was an impartial judge. After many complaints, the commission agreed to censure Hampton but refused to require his removal. Judge Hampton was re-elected by the residents of Dallas in 1990 and 1994, and retired in 1996. Bednarski was released from prison in 2007.